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Forget the gym, a grocery store is the latest must-have condo amenity

More smaller footprint food stores are opening in mixed-use spaces as developers try to lure them in from the start

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A Loblaws at the bottom of a boutique seven-storey condo development at Queen and Portland streets in Toronto. Increasingly, developers are trying to make grocery stores part of their mixed-use developments right from the beginning – rather than an afterthought.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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The Sobeys just off Spadina Avenue at the Concord CityPlace development in Toronto is another example. When complete, the new condo neighbourhood will have 20,000 people living – and shopping – there.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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The compact 20,000-square-foot Sobeys has quite quickly become “the heart and soul of CityPlace,” says Gabriel Leung, director of development for Concord Adex, adding that a grocery was always part of the master plan for the neighbourhood. “People always appreciate these kind of things in an urban centre,” he says, adding that it takes a long time to negotiate with national chains.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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The developer worked closely with the grocer on the store front to make sure there is lots of interaction between it and the patio area outside. “A lot of retailers are very inside focused,” Mr. Leung says, adding that Concord Adex insisted that the view to the outside remain unobstructed.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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Banks are also recognizing the condo market. Here, in the newly fashionable district of Lower Lonsdale, a Seabus trip away from North Vancouver, the Bank of Montreal has installed a 2,200-square-foot branch with eight employees at the foot of an eight-storey condo building.

Bank of Montreal

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Besides this North Vancouver branch, the Bank of Montreal announced the opening in May of an even smaller studio branch that will employ just four bankers located on the ground floor of the ZUNI condo building at 109 Chemin de la Pointe-Nord on Montreal’s Nuns’ Island. Paul Dilda, head of the North American branch channel for Bank of Montreal, says the concept may be expanded into other urban markets on the continent, including Toronto and Chicago.

Bank of Montreal

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In Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood, Choices Markets shares space with a 100-unit condominium and a loft development called The Metropolis. The retailer of natural and organic foods was an urban pioneer in this market niche, opening the 11,500-square-foot store in the late 1990s.

Choices Markets

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“Most people in Vancouver shop on convenience,” says Tyler Romano, director of marketing for Choices. “It’s unbelievably convenient when it’s nine o’clock at night and all you have to do is go straight down the stairs and walk into a store and grab products.”

Choices Markets

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Organic and artisanal food choices are becoming must-have amenities for high-rise residents. Specialty markets, like Choices, with its green living ethos seems to be a natural fit for Vancouverites who tend to value living green.

Choices Markets

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Mr. Romano says the grocer has adapted its offerings to suit the clientele – many of them younger single people and busy professionals – with grab-and-go items from the salad bar and deli making up a high proportion of sales. It’s an urban trend that developers would like to encourage as condominiums with full-service food markets often sell faster than those without.

Choices Markets

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