Featured In InsideToronto: Shoppes at Stonegate breaks ground on long-awaited grocery outlet in ‘food desert’

October 28, 2016
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By: Cynthia Reason | Inside Toronto | Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The soil was officially turned last week on a development that will bring a long-awaited grocery outlet back to a Stonegate community described by many as a ‘food desert.’

Vandyk Group held a ground-breaking ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 20 for The Shoppes at Stonegate – the first phase of its Backyard Condos development at 150 Berry Rd. in south Etobicoke.

The retail phase of the development will consist of a 32,000-sq-ft, two-storey building with several notable anchor tenants – chief among them, the new Berry Road Food Co-op, which will take over an 8,000-sq-ft unit on the development’s ground floor, and a relocated Stonegate Community Health Centre, taking over the 15,000-sq-ft second storey of the new build.

“If I could pick one word to describe both this community redevelopment and our organization, I think it’s transformation,” said Sherman Chan, Vandyk’s VP of Acquisitions and Development, noting that Vandyk’s vision for the development is one that takes into account local shopping, food security, proximity to schools and daycares, medical services, and playgrounds. “All of those things that make for a real community.”

Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated additions to The Shoppes at Stonegate development is the Berry Road Food Co-op, a newly formed multi-stakeholder co-op that stepped in to fill the food gap after several large grocery chains – including Loblaws and Sobeys – declined to take up tenancy at the site.

James Partanen, executive director of Berry Road Food Co-op, said the new co-op will be the largest of its kind in the GTA once its doors open in early 2018.

“It’s going to be a one-stop grocery experience – anything you could buy at a medium-sized grocery store, you’ll be able to buy here,” he said. “We’ll emphasize local, organic produce, as well as locally, organically, and co-operatively produced soft goods.”

The Berry Road Food Co-op will also offer a “rich” bulk food section, and a community kitchen where local residents will be able to learn how to can and preserve their own food, take cooking classes, and participate in community programming, Partanen added.

Bev Leaver, executive director of Stonegate Community Health Centre, said her organization is “excited” about possible partnership opportunities with the new food co-op.

“Putting our farmers’ market, our community garden and all of our food programs together with them – the possibilities are endless,” she said, noting that Stonegate CHC, too, hopes to open the doors to its new and improved space on the second storey of the Shoppes at Stonegate development in early 2018.

“Today is a very exciting day to celebrate. After years of coping with the demolition, years on a construction site, we can really see things happening now and it’s very, very exciting.”

That sentiment was echoed by Etobicoke-Lakeshore Councillor Justin Di Ciano and MPP Peter Milczyn, who were both on hand at last week’s groundbreaking.

Di Ciano called Vandyk’s redevelopment “by far the most exciting” in Ward 5: “Typically, as development comes into neighbourhoods through gentrification, it threatens what was there before. But this is one that is actually taking the bull by the horns and lifting the community up.”

For more information about the Berry Road Food Co-op, go to www.berryroadfood.coop

It’s going to be a one-stop grocery experience