Downtown market made of 120 shipping containers is now open for business

Not too long ago, a large empty parking lot sat along the west side of Bathurst and Front streets. Residents and visitors to the area were forced to walk by what was a barren wasteland that smelled vaguely of sewage and gasoline.

But as of Wednesday, the 2.6-acre plot of city-owned land at 63 Bathurst St. has transformed into stackt: a bustling food and retail marketplace made entirely of 120 shipping containers.

Stackt founder Matt Rubinoff used to live down the road and saw the lot as an opportunity for a public gathering space.

“This is one of the fastest growing neighbourhoods in Toronto, and so creating a public space here for people to gather and connect is a key piece for us,” he told CBC Toronto.

He gathered a mix of new and used shipping containers and repurposed them into a maze of retail stores stretching a city block — selling everything from gourmet donuts and coffee, to mattresses — alongside art exhibits and craft workshops.

The containers themselves are “canvasses,” Rubinoff said, explaining that over time some of them will be painted by artists or covered with “greenscaping.”

Stackt is only temporary, as the market has a lease with the city for just two years. But Rubinoff said that’s the beauty of using shipping containers that are easily assembled and disassembled.

A ‘spotlight’ for small businesses

This is the first time Erin Williams has had a space to sell her children’s clothing line, Poco Mono. Until today she’s only sold her eco-friendlyonesies online, citing huge start-up costs as a deterrent to renting a conventional storefront.

“I was so excited for this beautiful space,” Williams said. “This venue gives a spotlight to small business owners.”

Graham Bull said the market was a perfect spot for his workshop space, JOMO Studio, because it offers a “unique” take on a retail space.

“It creates a refreshing experience,” he said.

At JOMO, participants can make their own ceramic planter and choose a succulent to pair with it. Bull called it JOMO —short for the “joy of missing out” — so that “you can put down your phone for a few hours and create something you can be proud of.”

For the next two years, at least, visitors can wander the pedestrian-only, open-air market every day until 7 p.m., 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Or they can stay a little later for a drink at the mobile brewery.

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