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‘Transformational project’: Ground breaks on Loblaw distribution centre

Massive facility north of Newmarket expected to bring 1,000 jobs to area, projected completion 2025
20220819-East Gwillimbury facility-JQ
Dignitaries break ground on a massive Loblaw distribution facility in East Gwillimbury. From left, Choice Properties president Rael Diamond, Loblaw CFO Richard Dufresne, Mayor Virginia Hackson, York Region Chairman Wayne Emmerson, Rice Group president and CEO Michael Rice, Choice Properties senior vice-president development and construction Mario Fatica.

East Gwillimbury officially marked the start of construction on a new Loblaw distribution centre expected to bring a thousand jobs and be one of the largest buildings in the region.

Dignitaries from the town, York Region, Loblaw, Choice Properties REIT and Rice Group gathered Aug. 19 to break ground on the upcoming 1.2-million-square-foot facility. The advanced logistics and distribution centre is being built on Woodbine Avenue just north of Newmarket.

With East Gwillimbury being the fastest-growing municipality in the country, Mayor Virginia Hackson said this is an important facility. 

“Projects like this make a significant investment in our community and creates jobs,” she said. “We know communities thrive where people can live where they work and become active participants in their community.”

The municipality and developers have worked on the project for several months, with developer Rice Group complimenting the speed with which it has progressed.

The building between Highway 404 and Woodbine Avenue is phase one of developing 150 acres of industrial land and is expected to bring in $500,000 in municipal taxes annually, along with $7 million in development charges. Developers expect to complete it by 2025.

This is the first distribution centre Loblaw has built in the GTA in 15 years, according to its chief financial officer Richard Dufresne. He said the centre is needed with the rapid expansion of the grocery and pharmacy chain’s online storefront.

“A new facility will allow us to further modernize our supply chain,” Dufresne said. “This will be a leading-edge facility.”

Much of the facility will be automated, he added. He further said it is too soon to discuss recruitment plans, but there will be plenty of technical jobs available.

“There are going to be a lot of highly skilled jobs,” he said. “We’re going to need people who know how to fix these things, operate these things and program these things.”

Rice Group president Michael Rice called this a “transformational project” and complimented the partners for progressing it quickly.

“The project is a great example of all levels of government working together with the same goal in mind,” he said. 

Environmental sustainability is key to East Gwillimbury’s future development, Hackson said. She noted some local push back for the project getting built on farmland but said they would work with the developers toward a high environmental standard.

“This is a huge building, something we have never seen before, and the footprint of it is very large," she said. "We need to talk about the environment when they start to build." 

The tax contributions will also help add parks, trails, and recreation facilities, Hackson said. She added she does not expect to see another facility in town this large in her lifetime. 

She said East Gwillimbury would “grow sustainability, in a way that protects and preserves the town’s heritage and environment. We will continue to be a green community now and in the future.”