The Don Mills Centre
The Don Mills Shopping Centre in the 1950s.
E.P. Taylor originally bought the land where the Don Mills Centre is located in 1950 with the intention of building a brewing plant. Subsequently, he decided, instead to incorporate the property into his planned community (Don Mills) that was already underway. By
1955 a strip plaza was opened with a Dominion Supermarket and a Kofflers Drug Store (the first Shoppers Drug Mart) and number of other retailers.
Don Mills Centre was primarily intended to serve the local community, being centrally located within walking distance to most of its residents. It quickly became a regional centre, drawing people from North York, East York, and Scarborough.
As the Don Mills area continued to develop, the Don Mills Centre expanded with the opening of Eatons in 1961 as the first suburban department store. By 1965, the supermarket relocated and Zellers moved in, expanding to 65 stores.
By the mid 1960s, a post office, curling rink, movie theatres, hockey arena, service stations and a 15 storey office building had been added to the site.
In 1978, a major renovation was undertaken and the plaza was converted to an enclosed mall.
In the l990s, Sears Canada swallowed Eatons and the store was converted to a Sears Canada outlet store for the remainder of the lease after which it was closed. The store stood empty for some time and was then leased on a short term basis by National Sports as a clearance centre. After two years, they also closed down and the space was shared by a patio furniture store and a used car dealership.
The owner of the mall, Cadillac Fairview proposed a redevelopment of the site to include a lifestyle centre, condos and office space. The redevelopment plans originally called for a phased redevelopment, keeping different portions of the mall open at different times to ensure its continuity as a shopping centre. However, the plans changed and the centre was demolished, and an urban village consisting of 100 retailers and services will open in April of 2009
In May 2006, the majority of the mall closed, apart from Dominion (now Metro), CIBC, the TD Canada Trust building and the Royal Bank of Canada. Other stores remained open until the end of June. In July 2006, the former Eaton's store was fully demolished. The Don Mills Civitan Arena which is owned by the City of Toronto remained open to the public throughout the sites redevelopment.
Currently, Home Hardware, Pizza, Pizza and Kos Gift Shop had to temporarily re-located to 49 The Donway West on the south side of the Mall property, where the Beer Store, LCBO, Blockbuster and Royal LePage have always been located. Shoppers Drug Mart and CIBC built new locations on the north-east corner of Lawrence Avenue E., and The Donway West. The Shoppers Drug Mart opened in late April 2007, its 1000th store and the CIBC Branch opened at the same time. As of early October, Jack Astor's was the first to open in the first area of the new mall to open.
When Cadillac Fairview first proposed the redevelopment of the Don Mills Centre, there was a great deal of opposition from many locals, especially the areas seniors. Many of the local seniors frequented the old mall on a daily basis. With the plan to eliminate the existing indoor mall in favour of an outdoor urban retail village, many indicated this is not Florida where you can walk outdoors all year round, we need an enclosed mall. I feel for their loss, this is a generation that saw the birth of the Mall and to witness its death is very sad. Although Cadillac Fairview did try to accommodate the residents of Don Mills by providing shuttle bus service to and from Fairview Mall and leaving some essential stores open at the existing site, it didnt seem to ease their pain.
As a resident of Don Mills, I too was sad seeing it bulldozed to the ground. But now with the promise of some exclusive retail shops; a central courtyard; a pedestrian friendly design with outdoor cafesand a number of restaurants; the launch of a gourmet grocery store by Toronto chef Mark McEwan; should all be very exciting. I am awaiting the grand opening of Shops at Don Mills next month with anticipation and hope that it creates a new landmark within our community that is enjoyed by all the residents of Don Mills.
Toni Vernon and George Klump