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Toronto New shipping container market slated for Toronto’s Fort York

A marketplace made out of shipping containers is photographed in Toronto on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.

Christopher Katsarov

Call it retirement for the grey box set: Used shipping containers are being converted into a temporary market in downtown Toronto.

The city has leased a vacant lot near Fort York to local entrepreneurs, who will use containers to build and house up to 120 retail spaces, including food vendors, a brewery and art galleries. The market is set to open this spring and will be dismantled and converted into a park after the two-year lease is up.

The city has mandated that 15 per cent of the space be reserved for community economic development, such as local community housing and gardens, city councillor Joe Cressy said.

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The market will be built and operated by Stackt, a company founded by Matt Rubinoff and Tyler Keenan, who previously lived in the area which is full of towering condos and lacks green spaces.

“Our goal is to create a cultural meeting hub, a community gathering place for residents,” Mr. Rubinoff said.

Mr. Keenan says the businesses and services Stackt will provide, such as cultural venues for shows and spaces for guest chefs, were lacking when he lived there.

"We think it’s a great addition and we hope the community sees that as well,” he said.

Mr. Rubinoff and Mr. Keenan both said they were intrigued by the idea of using shipping containers because of their flexibility.

“You can retrofit them and reconfigure them into different patterns and shapes,” Mr. Rubinoff said. “You can pick it up and move it to another site.”

He said part of the inspiration for Stackt, which is what the market space will be named, came from travelling and seeing shipping container markets and malls in other countries.

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In El Paso, Tex., a non-traditional shopping centre called TI:ME at Montecillo was built partially using reconditioned shipping containers. In London, a pop-up mall built from stripped and refitted shipping containers called Boxpark offers consumers different shopping, food and event options.

One of Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums is set to be constructed using shipping containers.

Stackt will also bear similarities to Market 707, a street food and retail market located near Bathurst Street and Dundas Street West in Toronto, also built with shipping containers. Market 707 provides affordable rent opportunities to pop-up food vendors, as well as a variety of other businesses, and Mr. Cressy said one of the purposes of Stackt is to do the same.

“A typical landlord or developer is probably pushing brands to look at longer-term leases in larger spaces. We’re kind of pushing the opposite,” Mr. Rubinoff said.

“There is an abundance of city-owned land that is being underutilized,” Mr. Cressy added. “In a city that is increasingly unaffordable, utilizing vacant city land like this is part of the solution.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that the market will open in the spring, not summer as originally published.
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