Christmas came early this year for Stonegate residents, who learned late last week that “favourable” soil testing recently completed at the soon-to-be-redeveloped Stonegate Plaza means the local community health centre will be allowed to remain on-site throughout upcoming remediation, demolition and construction work.
“The results confirmed what we had hoped for where the community health centre is, and that confirmation is that the soil and ground water there is fine,” Gerard Caverson, VP of Finance for the Vandyk Group of Companies, said in an interview with The Guardian Monday. “So now we can move forward with allowing (Stonegate Community Health Centre) to stay, which was always our hope and certainly a best-case scenario.”
Vandyk bought the 55-year-old Berry Road plaza back in August and have since announced plans to redevelop the 5.3-acre site to include three condominiums buildings ranging in height from four to eight storeys, a series of townhouses, and a large, two-storey commercial/retail building to accommodate a ground-floor grocery store, plus a second-storey replacement space for Stonegate CHC.
But before any of that construction can take place, the lengthy process of remediating the contaminated soil detected elsewhere on the site will have to take place – contamination that was traced back to chemicals used by a long-closed dry cleaning business that used to operate out of the plaza.
Bev Leaver, Stonegate CHC’s executive director, said news that the soil surrounding the centre was deemed clean, therefore allowing the centre to remain operational on-site until their new home is built in late 2015, came as “quite a relief” – both to health centre staff and their 4,000 clients.
“It’s quite a relief to have some certainty about our future so that we can communicate that to our community, who were quite anxious about whether we would be forced to move,” Leaver said.
The transition is not without its bumps, however.
While the location of Stonegate CHC’s main operations will remain intact throughout its redevelopment, its Annex site – which is located just a few doors down and houses the centre’s dental services and children’s programming – is slated to be demolished some time in the new year.
Despite that setback, Leaver said she is committed to maintaining those services, which will either be relocated into the CHC’s main location, or to an adjoining empty building just to the east of the health centre.
“What I understand is that part of the plaza (that houses the Annex) will be demolished and that I will need to relocate our dental service, which is an Ontario Healthy Smiles clinic, and all of our Healthy Child programming there, which include a variety of infant and toddler programs, as well as all the after-school programming for school-age children,” she said, noting that Stonegate CHC is still in discussions with Vandyk around the relocation of those services.
Meanwhile, Leaver said last week’s food strategy meeting – during which many local residents turned out to discuss the ramifications of the impending closure of Stonegate’s Valumart (which is slated to be demolished in the first quarter of 2014) and Polish deli – was a productive one.
Not only is Stonegate CHC in discussions with Etobicoke Services for Seniors to begin running a regular bus trip for Stonegate residents to a local grocery store, but Leaver is also exploring the idea of adopting a “mobile market” similar to the one run out of a shipping container outside the Scadding Court Community Centre.
And now that Stonegate CHC’s short-term future has been assured, Leaver is looking to secure its long-term sustainability as an integral part of Vandyk’s vision for Stonegate Plaza by requesting the capital funding necessary to make the move into their soon-to-be new-and-improved – albeit more expensive – digs, from the Ministry of Health.
“We’ll move forward with that as quickly as possible so that we’ll have the funds to be a part of this project,” she said.
For regular updates on the Stonegate CHC, go to www.stonegatechc.org/ or visit Stonegate CHC’s Facebook page.
Also coming in early January, Vandyk will also be launching a community website to provide updates on the Stonegate redevelopment. Stay tuned to www.vandyk.com for more details.