Where most people see a big wide gap between the stores in Crescent Town, others spot good fishing.
Led by Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts, local organizers are testing the waters for a Crescent Town food co-op that can grow its own greens, and even raise some fresh fish on the side.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Potts, the parliamentary secretary for agriculture, but the urban farm idea “has a whole bunch of pluses.”
About six months ago, the Crescent Town Hasty Market closed, leaving a 9,000 square-foot hole in the neighbourhood’s retail centre.
Owner Pinedale Properties has yet to find a new tenant for the space, which once housed a Dominion supermarket.
Below, two more floors of about equal size are nearly empty, and have been so for years.
Potts said Pinedale is willing to rent the lower levels at “an unbelievably reasonable price.”
The space could work for an aquaponic farm – one where herbs and vegetables grow in trays floating in the same water used to raise freshwater fish, such as trout or tilapia.
Up at ground level, Potts said the idea is to divide the former Hasty Market space so that one part holds the food co-op store, and the other a set of small shops and offices.
“You could start a business selling books, selling electronics, doing haircuts or bike-fixing,” Potts said.
“The co-op would have a relationship with Pinedale, so that as they animated that space, they would pay more of the property tax, the interest, maintenance, and a little bit of rent.”
Hasina Quader, a board member at the non-profit Bangladesh Centre and Community Services, said the idea has a long way to go.
Together with Neighbourhood Link, BCCS is applying to Ontario’s Agricultural Adaptation Council to fund a study that would test the business case for the co-op and urban farm.
“It’s very early,” said Quader. “We’re just applying to the ministry to see if the pre-proposal will be accepted.”
Lorie Fairburn, a development manager with Neighbourhood Link, said if the plan does go ahead, there may be seed funding available from Action for Neighbourhood Change to help entrepreneurs get started in the small shop and office spaces.
Fairburn said she looks forward to town-hall style meetings at Crescent Town to hear what residents think of the idea.