Plan launched to reinvigorate struggling Sherbrooke neighbourhood Ascot

Non-profit organization Commerce Sherbrooke is hoping they can bring new life to the Ascot neighbourhood in Sherbrooke, which has seen large stores closing down in recent years.

Commerce Sherbrooke hopes to attract big grocery chains back to the Ascot area

'Some people see signs of a neighbourhood in decline, but we see it as lots of opportunities,' says Jérémy Dépault of Commerce Sherbrooke. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

Non-profit organization Commerce Sherbrooke is hoping they can bring new economic life to the struggling Ascot neighbourhood in Sherbrooke.

In the last few years, two of the area's three large grocery stores have shut their doors.

Commerce Sherbrooke, which focuses on commercial development, says its aim is to entice large chain grocery stores  to come back to the area.

Jérémy Dépault of Commerce Sherbrooke said the potential for profitable business in Ascot is there.

"It's one of the areas with the lowest income in Sherbrooke. But it is [also] one of the most dense areas in the city. So when you calculate by metre squared, it has one of the highest concentrations of customers in the city of Sherbrooke."   

$30 million spent outside the neighbourhood

Commerce Sherbrooke's plan came about after Ascot residents spoke up, concerned about a rash of store closures.

The non-profit launched an assessment of business in Ascot. 

Dépault said they found that many residents were unable to get their shopping done in their own neighbourhood.

"There [is] $30 million spent outside of the neighbourhood each year."

Ascot resident Christine Grenier has a list at the ready of what the neighbourhood needs:

"Grocery stores, pharmacies, and corner stores. Because it seems like we're missing everything in this area."

Some hit harder than others

Dépault says Ascot's low-income residents struggle with dwindling shopping options.

He also notes that people in Ascot are less likely to have a car than in other parts of Sherbrooke.

David Wachsmuth, associate professor of urban planning at McGill University, says people without cars are typically the hardest hit by closing neighbourhood stores.

"People who have access to cars often do that shopping by car. People who don't have cars who are forced do that shopping on foot."

Wachsmuth says that closing grocery stores are part of a larger national trend, but the neighbourhood's density may make a rebound possible.

This month, Commerce Sherbrooke hosted a brunch with local businesspeople to introduce them to Ascot and try and entice them to set up shop there.

Dépault also plans to set up meetings with chain stores in the area, with hopes of convincing them to open stores in Ascot.


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