Metrolinx facility driving out community hubs in Thorncliffe Park, residents worry

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Iqbal Malek has spent more than three decades growing his halal grocery store into a mainstay in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood. 

But he may have to move his business to make way for a new Metrolinx facility to service the Ontario Line, a 15-stop subway route slated to run 16 kilometres from the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place.

"It was very surprising and really shocking," said Malek. 

The transit agency is set to expropriate a lot on the north side of Overlea Boulevard, between Millwood Road and Thorncliffe Park Drive. 

The 175,000-square-metre site would force the entire plaza to relocate. A mosque also sits on the site but was already slated to move across the street to a property it purchased three years ago.

When Malek got the news, his first thought was for his customers.

"It will be devastating," he said. "The community [has been] relying on me for more than 35 years. They [have] come to rely and depend on Iqbal foods for what they need on a daily basis." 

The store specializes in halal products and carries culturally appropriate items that aren't easily found in other grocery stores. 

Malek says his store also acts as a community hub for residents, serving up to 20,000 customers a week before the pandemic hit.