Tower Renewal Blog

Charrette: Apartment Neighbourhoods and Healthy Corner Stores

On Saturday January 18, The East Scarborough Storefront hosted a public design charrette with partners United Way Toronto, Toronto Public Health (TPH), Sustainable TO, Architext, and ERA. Saturday’s discussion focused on TPH’s new program “Healthy Corner Stores,” a project that proposes to give suburban communities better access to fresh produce, and other healthy food options, through convenience stores.

Healthy Corner Stores is part of the growing Tower Renewal initiative, which aims to bring new amenities, healthy choices, and life on the street to Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods.

As a pilot project of the Healthy Corner Stores program, The Storefront and a local corner store are collaborating to test the program and help discover ways to make the process work for both the community and the vendor. If successful, the approach can be rolled out in other locations across the GTA, transforming traditional convenience stores into healthy green grocers.

As part of these efforts, ERA has been working in partnership with TPH, United Way Toronto, and the City’s Tower Renewal Office to bring into effect RAC zoning, a new set of planning policies for Apartment Neighbourhoods in the GTA. The new zoning, which is expected to launch in several key Toronto neighbourhoods in 2014, will open up a number of exciting possibilities for residents of our inner suburbs, including expanded opportunities for fresh food distribution.

For example, RAC zoning will permit corner stores to engage the public realm more actively, to develop their potential as local destinations and meeting places for a broader range of products and services through encouraging store expansion, and outdoor sales and display. These new projects are complemented by other initiatives promoted by THP, United Way, and the RAC Zone, including the Mobile Food Bus, a service that brings fresh produce to a number of neighbourhoods that otherwise lack easy access to healthy options.

ERA has been a partner with the East Scarborough Storefront since 2010, working directly with the local community to design new common and public spaces, and to bring exciting new community programs to the site. We are currently working with all stakeholders, including the Storefront and adjacent property owners, to develop the area into a public precinct plan that provides a host of amenities and life on the street to the neighbourhood.

With support from SustainableTO and Blackwell engineering, ERA is leading the Storefront’s new landscape design, which includes a new sports court and bioswale pavilion (the ‘Sky-o-Swale’), which we will report on in further detail in spring and summer, 2014.

To learn more about Healthy Corner Stores, listen to TPH Project lead Brian Cook in conversation with Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning.

Photos 1-3 courtesy Chris Tolley, Expect Theatre.