If it hadn’t been for a change of heart-and mind-by the legendary Canadian business mogul E. P. (Eddie) Taylor, Don Mills might have become the site of one of the world’s largest breweries instead of Canada’s first planned community. When he initially bought the 2000 acres of farmland back in the late 1940s Taylor, the man who consolidated the beer business in Canada, planned to construct an enormous plant to churn out stouts and pale ales. But the visionary businessman suddenly had a better idea. At the end of the Second World War, vets returned to both a booming economy and a baby boom. Why not thought Eddie build a model community where this post-war generation could live and work, play and pray in a self-sufficient “new town,” where everything was “up-to-the-minute” and “spanking new”-and designed in the modernist aesthetic that germinated in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. The result of Eddie’s “brain wave” was Don Mills, Canada’s first model town, and remnants of Eddie Taylor’s great experiment in city building can be seen at every turn in the totally unique urban precinct radiating from the intersection of Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue East. Don Mills would be a community where contemporary style would reign supreme. Only those with a modernist sensibility were permitted to build in this new dream town of 1950s Toronto. And to live in it.
So has the Don Mills dream died? Well, not exactly, it is being reborn with a new vision where the community’s architectural style may not be as “uniform,” as it once was, but the lifestyle vision for a 21st century Don Mills is as vibrant and cutting-edge as ever. And the city builders in this new incarnation of Don Mills are two remarkable Canadian companies, Cadillac Fairview and Lanterra Developments. A little over a decade ago Cadillac Fairview made a visionary “bet” on Canada’s model town. Let’s do something akin to a West Coast “makeover” on the old Don Mills Shopping Centre and give it a Southern California vibe. Let’s give T.O. an LA nip and tuck. Down came the old cavernous indoor Don Mills Shopping Centre, and in its place, CF Shops at Don Mills, Ontario’s first en-plein-air alfresco retailing and lifestyle urban village, arose. Along its cobble-stoned streets, and around its verdant village common, is a dazzling and diverse assortment of shops and stores, bars and restaurants, even a movie multiplex. Many wondered whether a California-style outdoor mall would work in a country pretty chilly for a few months each year. But it worked so well that Cadillac Fairview is presently putting a $21-million upgrade to the shopping precinct, which will add cobblestone-effect avenues, new street furniture, atmospheric lighting and a new entertainment event space. And together with Lanterra Developments, it is now developing Rodeo Drive, the first of a new multiphase residential and commercial development within the village precinct to make the CF Shops at Don Mills the complete lifestyle package: a place to shop, dine, catch a flick, tipple a char—and LIVE LARGE. So why has Don Mills embraced the LA Lifestyle so avidly—unreservedly? It is per-haps slightly counter-intuitive but we’d argue that Toronto and Los Angeles are very similar.