Metro Beechwood is here to stay

By Karen Squires (this story originally appeared in the February 2022 edition of the New Edinburgh News)

Metro Inc. purchased the land occupied by its grocery store on Beechwood Avenue back in December. This investment in our community is good news, showing the confidence Canada’s third-largest food retailer has in the Beechwood Village area.

There had been much speculation and concern in the community about what would happen to our beloved Beechwood Metro, which many of us have come to rely upon. When news hit in early December that the land was up for sale, many patrons wondered what the future might hold. What would happen should this location be purchased by a developer and how might this disrupt our shopping experience? We’ve all enjoyed being able to walk or drive easily to Metro, right in the heart of our community, as this is what makes a community thrive! 

Metro store manager Shawn Steinburg has confirmed to the New Edinburgh News that while Metro has purchased the 2.32 acre property on Beechwood Avenue between Charlevoix and Loyer Streets, the company will not be pursuing any rezoning of the property. Metro does own other locations in both Ontario and Quebec, and since this location came up for sale, they felt this was a good asset for the company to own. As of mid-January, Shawn has confirmed there are no other plans relating to the store footprint or changes to existing inventory. Of note, the lot in question does not include the gas station on the corner of Beechwood and Charlevoix.

Metro renovated the store interior extensively in 2017. Shawn explained, “through that renovation, we added a wide variety of equipment and design elements to expand some of our programs and further enhance the customer shopping experience.” I personally have certainly noticed these enhancements, which made a huge difference to the overall shopping experience and improved the layout and presentation of products.

In hindsight, thank goodness this was all done before the pandemic, which might have delayed the entire renovation process. 

Shawn added, “Like everyone, we have found the past two years extremely challenging at times. My team and I have worked hard to ensure our customers felt safe and comfortable. Even as various restrictions have ebbed and flowed, we wanted our customers to still enjoy their shopping experience at Metro, just as before the pandemic.” Shawn also noted: “we wanted customers to feel they could count on Metro to be there through it all, as a reliable and trustworthy business in the community that would meet their grocery needs.” 

From a health and safety perspective, Shawn says, “As hard as it has been to work on the front lines, to adapt quickly and to pivot on a dime during this pandemic, my staff and I are touched by and extremely grateful for how supportive and understanding our customers have been during these difficult times.” 

I think I can speak for many that we are also extremely grateful to have Metro planted firmly on Beechwood Avenue, right in the heart of multiple communities. We are also grateful that Shawn and the team have worked long hours to ensure our grocery needs are met, while keeping everyone safe. Special thanks to the team at Metro Beechwood: we breathe a sigh of relief to know they will continue to be there long-term!

Karen Squires is a member of the board of the New Edinburgh Community Alliance.

An idea to help Beechwood Village become a 15-minute neighbourhood

By Chris Penton, Beechwood Market president. This article appeared in the April 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News.

Much noise has been made of the race to create 15-minute neighbourhoods in Ottawa. Beechwood Village is certainly part of that race. Like many neighbourhoods in the urban core, we have a variety of amenities. But, also like many neighbourhoods in the core, we are missing some too. Beechwood Village is more of a … 21-minute neighbourhood. 

Arguably every corner of Ottawa is a 21-minute neighbourhood. The additional six minutes comes from trips to Costco for 3kg of peanut butter, to the dentist you have been with since you were a child and, ironically, to fill up the tank for the next trip for peanut butter.  

In a city ruled by strip malls and suburban development, the need to leave your neck of the woods has become inevitable. To feel shame about the departure is not only wrong, but futile. Beechwood area businesses don’t need your guilt; they need your help. They need your business and they need you to truly get behind the #SupportLocal movement. It is too common for Ottawans to point out what is missing, quickly groan, and then jump into the car to get it. 

For years you have been told that there is no hardware store, chocolate shop, or vintage diner because commercial rents are too high. This is probably true.

What if there was a way the City could step in and help change our shopping landscape? Consider the following.

Just as there are incentives to build affordable housing (tax breaks for exceeding seven units, rent subsidies for up to 20 years for landlords and so on) there could easily be incentives to open up affordable commercial space to smaller stores and services. Mandate developers and landlords to offer a quarter of their commercial square footage at a reduced rate. Since the concept already applies to residential units, why not commercial? In doing so, local residents get a service for which they have been asking; small businesses get a chance to prove themselves; and landlords fill spots which may very well have stayed empty for years. 

The City of Ottawa talks a mean streak when it comes to supporting local enterprise and bolstering small businesses in order to create 15-minute neighbourhoods. However, extending patio licenses into the coldest months, offering up endless food truck licenses, and promoting an obscure ‘buy local’ passport are band-aid solutions. Bring in solid measures like mandated affordable commercial space and you’ll see ice cream shops, family-owned hardware stores, and bakeries reappear.

In order for these sorts of things to happen, residents must buy in. Firstly, continue to support your existing main-street businesses. Secondly, ask your local politicians why commercial rents are so high. Tell them which amenities you’d like to have within walking distance. Another sensible step is to call the Quartier Vanier Business Improvement Association (QVBIA). Charged with attracting new businesses to your main street, they want to hear from their shopping public. 

 There is no reason why Beechwood Village couldn’t be a 15-minute neighbourhood. But it will take more than talk to allow us the short walk.

Chris Penton is the President of the Beechwood Market, Ottawa’s online farmers market: A community builder, he is a past-president of the Vanier Community Association, current board member of the Vanier BIA, and ran for municipal office in 2019. A version of this column appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Feb. 12, 2021.