Canada's Condominium Magazine

Don’t forget the groceries when choosing a condo

Ever wonder, when you’re driving along the Gardiner downtown, where the residents of all those new condo towers go to buy groceries? It’s all well and good to live downtown, close to all the big attractions, with great transit availability and even the ability to walk to work, but is it easy to pop down to a grocery store when you need a box of cereal or a bunch of carrots? Is that area of Toronto actually a “food desert,” a neighbourhood without easy access to “healthy” food?

We recently reported that Toronto has been rated quite high for walkability. More than one neighbourhood in Toronto, according to a new measure used by Walk Score, can be described as a “walkers’ paradise.” That means you can comfortably take care of any errand without the need for a car or transit. But if you do need transit, it’s available too.

The Walk Score people, whose real business is helping renters to find accommodation, have now rated cities around the US—nothing yet on Toronto—specifically for access to grocery stores. They found that in New York City, the city with the best rating on this, 72 per cent of people can walk to a grocery store in five minutes. In San Francisco, the score is just 59 per cent. Among the worst cities they rated was Indianapolis, Indiana: only 5 per cent of people there can walk to a grocery store in five minutes.

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This may be something you have to have experienced and then lost in order to fully appreciate, but being able to run to the grocery store at a moment’s notice and be back home in a few minutes is one of the great pleasures of urban living. You’re missing an ingredient for the meal you’re making for guests, who are arriving in ten minutes? No problem. You can see the grocery store from your balcony. Down you go and you’re back in a flash. Have a sudden urge for a steak and green salad for dinner? No worries. Put on your shoes and stroll over to the grocery store. It only gets better if you’re lucky enough to live near a foodie paradise like Kensington Market, pictured at top, or the Saint Lawrence Market.

Living in a food desert, however,  can present real hardship. Picture yourself struggling with bags of groceries on a crowded bus or trudging for blocks through all kinds of rotten weather, kids in tow. In a lot of areas, there isn’t any affordable option for many people, and that can have an impact on people’s health.

Getting back to the downtown condos, it appears that they are pretty well served, for the most part. The map of Toronto’s food deserts shown above is a little out of date, dating from 2007, but, as can be seen, most of downtown Toronto is green.

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