Organic Garage still wants to sell good $#!@% in Leaside

I remember excitedly reading Will Ashworth’s article in Leaside Life (March, 2017) announcing that Organic Garage (OG) had chosen 33 Laird Dr. at Canvarco Rd. to be the location of its fourth store in the GTA. At the time, and perhaps optimistically, the plan was to open in 2018. What’s not to love about a Canadian, family-run grocery chain selling fresh organic and all-natural products at prices that are reportedly between 15 and 25 per cent cheaper than those of its competitors coming to Leaside? But here we are in 2021 still without an update.

Earlier this year we began hearing reports that the development project at 33 Laird had stalled. I set out to learn more about the status of the 2.24-acre site with a partially built 67,916 sq. ft. structure integrating a heritage-listed building that once served as the home of the Sheridan Equipment Company. A search of Ontario Superior Court documents reveals that on Nov. 28, 2020, a “Notice of Intention to Make a Proposal” (NOI) under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act was filed. An NOI provides companies with financial difficulties the opportunity to restructure their affairs. The most recent filing in February confirms that the court has ordered the property be sold to the highest bidder.

Positive takeaway?

As disappointing as this news first sounded, the positive takeaway is that the project should get “unstuck,” and with new backers, perhaps an even better vision will emerge. I reached out to Randee Glassman, director of marketing and OG’s “Ambassador of Buzz” to get a sense of their current thinking on coming to Leaside. She wrote: “This location continues our commitment to developing the Toronto market and bringing healthier food for less to more customers; as such we are still committed to the development of the site and patiently wait for the construction to finish.” 

How might we take advantage of the current situation? Now would be the time for the community to address any outstanding issues related to that specific area of our ‘hood as it relates to increasing traffic. Currently, Canvarco Road is a cul-de-sac. It is incredibly difficult to make a turn left to get in or out. Ditto for the entranceway to XYZ Storage. The peculiar intersection at Laird-Millwood-Southvale-Malcolm could also use some love. While I’m at it, let’s throw in both entrances to Leaside Gardens and the straightening of the sweeping curve on the northeast side between Millwood and Southvale. With no end in sight for the continued “intensification” of Leaside, the traffic issues at this southeast “gateway” to Leaside and the southern part of the business park urgently need an updated traffic management plan at the least.

Two developers I spoke with about the 33 Laird development told me the site would not be attractive without the City’s commitment to “improve the traffic situation for vehicular and pedestrian access.” In interviews for previous articles, both Pie in the Sky Studios and Mega Cleaners cited their concerns about the negative impact increasing traffic is having on their business, and this is before the 33 Laird project is completed. The call for action is not new. My colleagues at the LRA confirmed that this problem has been raised on several occasions over the past six years, yet little has changed. 

Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning (Thomas Edison)

Geoff Kettel wrote a story in his Feb. 2016 article about this very topic and called for a study. The most recent opportunity to effect change came with the widely publicized Laird in Focus effort. Unfortunately, that highly visible effort focused on the main access to the business park at the north end (Study Area A) and the east side of Laird (Study Area B) only, thus leaving out the southeast end of Leaside and the south end of the business park.

So what can be done? My gut reaction is for the City to be the winning bidder. The City could add a tremendous value to the neighbourhood for residents, as well as serve as a catalyst for desirable development at the south end of the park. I would even be keen to explore the benefits of a railway overpass that could connect the south of the business park with the Thorncliffe community and the coming Ontario line station. Even if the City does not bite, the new ownership of 33 Laird Drive would benefit and should be aware that certain deficiencies with the current development could be overcome if all stakeholders collectively came together for the greater good. 

Should the City purchase the 33 Laird development? Is the timing right to call for a secondary plan to address the traffic problems and future infrastructure needs to support development in the southernmost part of the business park? Let us know at .

About Glenn Asano 59 Articles
Leasider Glenn Asano is a partner and principal consultant for the strategy and business development practice at Centred Performance. He is also an Instructor with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.