A few years ago, when Cadillac Fairview* announced it was going to demolish the Don Mills Shopping Centre, there was a huge public outcry. Today, with all the warm sunshine at newly opened The Shops of Don Mills – a new urban village – all that was forgotten.
People of all ages were roaming the sprawling space and enjoying the shows at the Town Square. Little ones splashed in the fountain, conveniently located outside a public washroom. Buskers were performing and for $5, you could even ride a Segway.
However, this is a shopping centre and most of the shops and restaurants hadn’t opened yet. Those that had, were full of people but it was hard to tell if the traffic was translating into sales. Most people weren’t walking around with bags but there were line-ups in the two stores I visited: McNally Robinson Booksellers (a Manitoba-based chain) and the much-anticipated, U.S.-based Anthropologie – home décor items were lovely and affordable, while clothing seemed overpriced and most wasn’t that different from anything I’d seen at shops like Aritzia, Mendocino or The Gap.
As for food, there will be an abundance of restaurants for sit-down dining and a Pizza Pizza for a quick bite. Food courts are a staple of indoor malls. I wonder how shoppers will manage without places to grab a quick bite on the go? For the next two weeks, there will be some food kiosks including Druxy’s and The Real Jerk – a real treat if you like Caribbean food – to bad it’s only temporary. For those of you true foodies (or foodie wannabees like me), stay tuned for Chef Mark McEwan’s gourmet food store opening this summer.
In all honesty, The Shops of Don Mills reminded me of a cross between a suburban big-box mall and a residential development with lots of free parking in a multi-level lot and bike racks. I prefer smaller shops on city streets but I will be back for at least one more visit once everything is open and while the weather is warm. I’m not so sure what this urban village will be like on rainy days or once the wrath of winter returns.
Have you visited The Shops at Don Mills yet? What did you think?
(*Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the owners of Cadillac Fairview, was my employer for almost 8 years. I never had any involvement in this project and my writing of this post is pure coincidence.)