The rebirth of Don Mills
On a recent trip to Don Mills, I passed an intriguing sign at the Don Mills Centre, saying, "What if Don Mills Centre became more than a mall?" It then provided a web address, one that I am finding quite intriguing.
Don Mills represented a turning point in Toronto development styles back in the 1950's. One of its distinguishing features was the ring road around the Don Mills / Lawrence intersection (the Donway), within which the main community facilities were sited, separated from the single-family homes outside the ring road and the industrial lots to the south. Separation of uses was a key principle.
Some fifty years later, the owners of Don Mills Centre (the shopping plaza in the southwest quadrant of the Donway) are proposing what would have been unthinkable back then: introducing not only office uses, but also residential uses on the Don Mills Centre site. It's a clear attempt to transform the suburban into the urban. Even more promising, it's recognition on the part of a major developer that there's more to commercial development than a Wal-Mart in the middle of a 2000-space parking lot — even better, that that's a poor way to build a city. That introducing residents to the site is actually good for business, for the developers and for the tenants.
It's a stretch to say that this will become the norm for greenfields development in 905-land (although it would be nice, and a welcome change). However, at least reinventing our inner suburbs is a good start, and a good fit with Toronto's new Official Plan.