Berry Road Food Co-op to be Stonegate 'Community Hub'

Vandyk Group subsidizes co-op rent for a decade

A long-awaited grocery store is transforming the Stonegate community from a so-called food desert, and its residents into potential consumer-owners of a new food co-op.

Shoppes at Stonegate is the 32,000-square-foot, two-storey first phase of Vandyk Group’s Backyard Neighbourhood Condos at Berry Road and Stephen Drive north of The Queensway.

The new Berry Road Food Co-op is a multi-stakeholder organization of shoppers, employees and farmer producers. It will provide not-for-profit access to healthy, local and sustainable food including meat and organic produce in a nearly 9,000-sq.-ft. floor space at its expected opening next May.

“It will be a one-stop grocery store with locally sourced food through relationships with local farmers,” said James Partanen, executive director of the Berry Road Food Co-op. “It will help us address food security issues in this neighbourhood.”

The food co-op is partnering with Stonegate Community Health Centre to provide educational programs in the co-op kitchen, such as cooking and canning.

Stonegate Community Health Centre, the other Shoppes at Stonegate anchor tenant, is expected to open in fall 2018 in 15,000-sq.-ft. on the building’s second floor.

The Berry Road Food Co-op is only the second multi-stakeholder food co-op in Ontario, Partanen said.

It will operate a “double shelving” practice, offering income-accessible food products for shoppers the health centre identify as “supported” members, and higher-priced options “supportive” members may purchase to enable supported members to purchase groceries “effectively at cost,” Partanen said.

The food co-op is expected to attract residents from Bloor Street West to The Queensway, and from Mimico Creek to the Humber River, Partanen added.

“I don’t see any reason why the food co-op would not have as many shoppers as the previous Safeway, which did about $400,000 in sales each month,” Partanen said.

Partanen said he expects the Berry Road Food Co-op to attract 3,000 members in its first year, more than the existing West End Food Co-op kitchen and cannery, which he helped to create in Parkdale in 2012.

The startup organization’s fundraising campaign seeks to raise $400,000 to fund the food co-op’s operational expenses, such as hiring and training staff, and purchasing equipment and computer software.

People may support the food co-op by purchasing one or more $200 co-op credit vouchers redeemable once the co-op opens.

Visit to join, buy a voucher or donate. Corporate sponsorship is also welcomed.

Vandyk Group focused on developing Shoppes at Stonegate soon after it purchased the property four years ago.

“On the face of it, it looked like converting a neighbourhood plaza. Then we learned it was the community hub of that neighbourhood,” said Sherman Chan, Vandyk’s vice-president of development and acquisitions.

“There was a thriving community centre, a grocery store, an auto body shop, a Polish deli, a thrift store, a dentist and a skating rink.”

Vandyk’s plans are “to modernize what this parcel of land always meant to the community,” Chan said.

Vandyk looked for a “unique” grocery store approach and learned about food co-ops after top-tier grocery franchises took a pass, Chan said.

Food co-ops are quite common in the United States and in Europe, he added.

“One thing we heard loud and clear is that the concept of a food store is very important to this community,” Chan said. “Other developers are looking at the cool factor: food halls and food trucks.

“We weren’t trying to do anything fancy. We’re introducing something newer and modernized.”

Vandyk set aside one acre for a park, committed to subsidize a lower rent to the food co-op for the next decade, Chan added, and to contribute leasehold improvements to make the store operational, Chan said.

Etobicoke-Lakeshore Coun. Justin Di Ciano, who represents the area, said Shoppes at Stonegate, particularly the food co-op, is an example to city planners and developers alike of how neighbourhoods can be redeveloped.

“You hear a lot of stories, like in Parkdale, where the city is gentrifying and people most in need are being forced out. This is the opposite,” Di Ciano said. “This is an investment in the community, and how best to serve the community’s needs.

“There is no greater business model when you’re trying to create something sustainable. This is forever going to pay back to the community.”

Di Ciano lauded Vandyk for its willingness to incorporate a grocery store anchor, a “community priority,” and eventually, a food co-op.

“Every time we threw something at Vandyk, it was yes. You don’t see that very often,” Di Ciano said. “It has really become a win-win scenario.

“It’s not just government making a deal with developers. It’s the community playing a huge role in making it happen.”

Backyard Condos’ next three phases include a six-storey, 96-unit condo, a 200-unit building as high as 10 storeys, and a 200-unit condo, Chan said. Phase 2 is being marketed this fall.

The full build-out of Vandyk’s Backyard Condos’ four-phase development in the Stonegate community is expected within the next two-and-a-half years.

COMMUNITY Nov 08, 2017 by Tamara Shephard  Etobicoke Guardian