East Scarborough Storefront

Climate-friendly hubs: The East Scarborough Storefront

The East Scarborough Storefront is an excellent model for greening hubs infrastructure with strong community engagement and involvement. Check the virtual tour and learn more about the East Scarborough Storefront.

The Storefront has been celebrated for its Connected Community Approach in facilitating grassroots neighbourhood transformation. Through their multi-year project, the Community Design Initiative, The Storefront engaged and worked alongside local youth to transform previously underutilized land into dynamic community spaces - with an emphasis on sustainability and green design features! 

As a one-stop-service hub, The Storefront offers an array of social services and supports; 35+ organizations operate out of the hub to bring social services like legal advice, youth groups and newcomer settlement services to the neighbourhood. Other aspects of The Storefront's community backbone role include supporting grassroots leaders through our Neighbours Building Neighbours and Sport for Change initiatives, and catalyzing local workforce development strategy through our East Scarborough Works project.

The Story of the East Scarborough Storefront

The Storefront first began serving the community in Kingston Galloway/Orton Park (KGO) in 2001, where it was first located in the Morningside Mall. In 2007, the hub relocated to an old police station and began the long process of redesigning the building and grounds to better serve the community’s needs. Before The Storefront was The Storefront, staff described the state of the building as “stark, institutional, and depressing”. 

Now, The Storefront has undergone an extraordinary transformation and is a vibrant, climate-friendly space for the KGO neighbourhood. 

Image: The East Scarborough Storefront banner that showcases the services they provide to the community.

Come along for this virtual tour and find out more about the East Scarborough Storefront. 

Key sustainability features of the East Scarborough Storefront

Sustainability and green building design was identified as a community priority. Some of the design process goals included: adaptive reuse of the robust existing building and site; re-connection of the building and site to the surrounding community and green spaces; resource and energy-efficiency; creative rainwater harvesting and shade structures; optimization of renewable energy sources; local food production; shade and naturalization strategies; and accessibility for all.

Image: The Sky-O-Swale™ captures rainwater and creates an inviting covered area between the basketball court and the community garden. (Photo taken during a hub tour in fall 2019).

The Storefront engaged local youth with architects, planners and designers in the conception, design, fundraising, approvals process, and construction of the building. The Community Design Initiative resulted in the design and construction of the Sky-o-swale™ onsite. The Sky-o-swale™ is a shade-water structure that filters rainwater through a green roof and into an underground cistern, which is used to irrigate the community garden on site. Benches under the Sky-O-Swale create an inviting space for people to gather while providing shade on hot days. This is the only one of its kind in the entire world, which brings a huge sense of pride for the KGO community. 

Image: The Sky-O-Swale and community garden.

Inside the building: Eco-Food Hub 

This community kitchen is beyond imagination. The Storefront considers the Eco-Food Hub the nucleus for the community to connect with each other; great food can certainly encourage social collaboration! Community members can share meals and share parts of their lives with each other. 

The Eco-Food Hub is a welcoming space for budding local entrepreneurs to test new ideas, local residents to learn and refine skills, and youth to develop healthy lifestyles. With reusable dishware available for community use, the hub is also cutting down on single-use plastic and waste, and diverting food scraps to compost for the garden. 

In the community kitchen, gardeners and residents can also use and preserve the local food they harvest from the R.O.S.E. community garden. Let’s head there next. 


Image: The community kitchen and dining area.

The Hub Grounds: R.O.S.E. Community Garden 

R.O.S.E. stands for the “Roots of Scarborough East” Community Garden. Originally an old water tower site, this garden was created in Fall of 2007. Fresh vegetables are abundant, but the community has benefitted from the garden in much deeper ways. The garden is a space where people can share traditions between multicultural communities and generations. It is a space to relax and enjoy, particularly as improved green space for neighbours who live in the apartment buildings overlooking the garden. The Storefront also made a canoe garden for pollinators in 2018. 

Image: Residents and staff from the Bathurst-Finch Unison Hub explore the community garden.

Community-led design process for the win! 

The cool features of The Storefront are no accident. Everything came together as a result of an intentional community-led design process. 

Through ongoing community transformation work, the team has continued to work with residents, including local youth, to redesign and retrofit the hub building, construct the sky-o-swale™ and provide resident engagement support for local Tower Renewal projects. Through engaging in these activities, the youth experienced mentorship and hands-on learning in design, construction, project management, and leadership skills. 

As part of the design and construction work, The Storefront engaged a broad spectrum of partners and stakeholders including ERA Architects, Sustainable.TO, Architext, the City of Toronto Tower Renewal and Neighbourhood Revitalization Unit and other sustainability experts. It was crucial to have partners that could provide technical, resource and training support to undertake projects that are linked to green design and sustainability.

Image: The entrance of the building showcasing that this building was once a police station. The space was repainted and redesigned it to make the space more inviting. 

Fostering social connectedness 

The East Scarborough Storefront offers a robust example of how environmental issues and concerns can be intertwined in efforts to best meet the needs of the local community. These spaces are significant for deep community engagement, and have also contributed to emergency response during times of crisis over the past year. 

Image: Residents and staff from the Bathurst-Finch Unison Hub toured East Scarborough Storefront as part of inter-hub learning sessions.

Image: Residents and staff from the Bathurst-Finch Unison Hub toured East Scarborough Storefront as part of inter-hub learning sessions.

Despite the circumstances, The Storefront keeps up the positivity and remains committed to the mission of facilitating collaboration and building community. The Storefront has supported residents by maintaining human contact, supporting job searches, and highlighting grassroots community initiatives that are making a real difference in keeping us healthy and safe. 

Learn more about our work with community hubs and our project Accelerating Climate Action Through Community Hubs.