Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Shops at Don Mills

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 d├ęcor 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.)
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  1. My first apartment in Toronto was 6 minutes from this urban village. To visit a few in the States, the design of these outside shopping malls is preferable to the all-inside malls.

    Toronto has a few things over Montreal: you get Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel. I am jealous.

  2. Prefer shopping outside to indoor malls too but I still prefer smaller stores to big box ones. I'd love to see an urban mall with smaller boutiques and shops, perhaps with local retailers and artisans similar to Queen's Quay when it first opened.

    Montreal has great shopping too - it would be boring if we were all the same - I'd love to have a Simmons here. They keep teasing us but I don't think it will happen.


  3. I went on Wednesday and there was next to nothing open--but then, I just went for Anthropologie. I prefer small shops myself, but I was willing to make that trek. The mall itself is hilarious--it reminded me of a nice Florida outlet mall with the outdoor, village-y feeling, but I suspect that during the winter, it won't be so nice. It's a nice trip from downtown by car, but I can't imagine doing it in the winter by subway/bus.

  4. Tiff my son said the same thing about the Florida malls. He was there recently with my husband. I've never been so I'll have to take your word. At least in Florida, it's warm all year round. ;)

  5. Personally I think it may do okay but not superbly, after all where would you choose to shop here in a manufactured feel like spot or say Yorkville, the Danforth, the Beaches,Younge St and well you get the idea.

    For me there is a small mall at Don Mills and Steeles ( the shops on Steeles) that place feels small town and I love there Spring Break kids programming.

  6. Hollie, thanks for sharing another perspective. From the sounds of it, there will be a larger emphasis on community and family activities than we've seen at the indoor malls. I agree, this type of concept wouldn't fly in areas like Bloor St., the Danforth, Yonge St. or Yorkville.

    Once you visit the Shops at Don Mills, please come back and share your thoughts. I'm sure other readers would like to know how it compares to the mall at Don Mills and Steeles.

  7. What a bizarre weekend of coincidences....I rarely EVER venture north of Bloor in Toronto, and this weekend while killing time between a wedding ceremony and the reception, I went to The Shops at Don Mills and then I read this post of yours on Monday morning.

    I thought it was a pretty nice little set of shops, and the design and layout of the place was almost identical to a mall near where I used to live in Australia.

    And when the CAPTCHA is "surfer," how can I not comment?

  8. Parker, why don't I ever see CAPTCHA with "shopper"? ;)

    Did you buy anything?

    Now when you want to be reminded of Australia, all you'll need to do is head up north to Don Mills.


  9. Anonymous1:10 pm

    I just came from the shops and i got a parking ticket. I parked at the bank parking spot. Went to use the bathroom and then went to the bank and I got a parking ticket. Most malls have the same stores and don't give random parking tickets. It is not worth it to go to the Shops at Don Mills.


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