Food crops flourished at a Toronto office tower garden and the successful experiment goes Canada-wide this year

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If you live in an urban environment you are surrounded by cars, roads, highrises, concrete and sometimes, with a bit of luck, some green space.

The pandemic has prompted a new vision of urban space that may change the way we live. Some of us are implementing our dreams of greener, cleaner and healthier workplaces.

Shiri Rosenberg is one such dreamer. She is the director of asset strategy at Colliers Real Estate Management Services in Toronto. Rosenberg is passionate about reimagining commercial spaces in our urban landscape.

“Why do outdoor commercial spaces need to be associated with grass or decorative landscaping? We have an opportunity to activate these spaces and introduce uses that are more dynamic and productive,” she said.

Rosenberg is helping to lead the charge with Colliers Edible and Pollinator Garden program. Through this initiative, the company grows food for those that need it (including the bees), engages building occupants and the surrounding community, promotes wellness, supports urban biodiversity while also helping real estate owners achieve building sustainability certifications such as LEED, BOMA Best and GRESB.

Last year an urban farm was created in front of the office building at 95 St. Clair Ave. W. in a team effort with client Desjardins, the on-site Colliers property management team, and urban growers/consultants Hoffmann Hayes. It was the first garden of its kind in the Colliers program.

This year, Colliers will follow up the successful Toronto venture and introduce 67 pollinator gardens to the sites it manages, as well as landscaped edible gardens to a number of sites in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.

“We were not sure whether food would grow on the busy St. Clair thoroughfare (surrounded by condos and strong winds),” said Rosenberg. “Our clients, Brian Spratley, regional vice-president at Desjardins and Frank Sinclair, asset manager at Desjardins, said to us: ‘Let’s just view this as an experiment,’ and they said it with a light heart and a smile.”

“It was a real gesture of trust and teamwork. As well as a willingness to even fail in the context of possibly succeeding,” she added.