Lawrence Avenue East and Don Mills Road 
Township of North York (City of Toronto), Ontario

The first mall-type shopping complex in Metropolitan Toronto was conceived and built as a commercial hub for the city's original master-planned suburb. Tentatively known as Epton, and then Yorktown, the development was eventually dubbed Don Mills. 

This ultra-modern metropolis was developed on 2,063 acres of farmland lying 7 miles northeast of Toronto's Central Business District. E.P. Taylor, a Canadian business tycoon and thoroughbred horse racing enthusiast, began buying land in 1947. The original aim was to build a Canadian Breweries plant. 

By 1951, Taylor had scrapped plans for the brewery and installed Karl C. Frazer as President of Don Mills Development, Limited. This corporation would construct the new Levittown-like garden city. Macklin Hancock, an aspiring architect and son-in-law of Karl Frazer, was hired to plot Don Mills. 

The city-to-be would be configured in four quadrants, centered on the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Don Mills Road. 44 acres at the southwest corner of the intersection would contain a suburban-style shopping centre. Construction of the first Don Mills tract houses began in May 1953, with residents taking possession in October. 

Ground was broken for the DON MILLS CONVENIENCE CENTRE in the spring of 1954. The 2 million dollar complex was officially dedicated in the fall of 1955. Designed by Toronto's John B. Parkin Associates, the starkly modern mall was open-air in configuration and encompassed approximately 70,400 leasable square feet. 

Among the 15 original stores were Koffler's Drug, Walter's Barber Shop, Bailey's Home Hardware, Canadian Bank of Commerce, the Unitas Restaurant and a (19,500 square foot) Dominion supermarket. A freestanding Brewers' Retail store was added in 1957.

Soon after its completion, DON MILLS CONVENIENCE CENTRE won the prestigious Massey Awards for Architecture Silver Medal. A large-scale expansion got underway in the late 1950s. 

An open-air strip of stores was built, which extended southward from the existing mall. The Dominion supermarket relocated into a (43,500 square foot) building. The renovation was completed in September 1959. 

Now a regional-size venue, the complex was promoted, henceforth, as DON MILLS CENTRE. Tenants in the new South Wing included a United Cigar Store, Ko's Linens & Gifts and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10. It is possible (but not confirmed) that the original Dominion space, in the 1955 section of the mall, now housed a Zellers discount mart. 

The Don Mills Civitan Arena, a junior-league hockey venue, was built adjacent to the new Dominion store. The south end of the mall site was further developed with the Don Mills Curling Rink, which opened in September 1960.

A second enlargement of DON MILLS CENTRE added a block of stores west of the two existing South Wing blocks. A north-south mall concourse was created, which was anchored by a 2-level (101,300 square foot), Toronto-based Eaton's. This store welcomed its first shoppers in July 1961. 

In February 1963, the Premier Operating Corporation Don Mills Theatre was dedicated. The single-screen venue, built on a pad west of the Civitan Arena, became a Canadian Odeon Theatres operation on August 22, 1963.

Expansion of the shopping complex continued. The open-air South Wing mallway was fully-realized with a second western store block and Eaton's was enlarged to 175,000 square feet. When construction dust settled in 1965, DON MILLS CENTRE encompassed approximately 420,000 leasable square feet and housed around 60 stores and services. 

Shopping hubs in the DON MILLS CENTRE trade area included BAYVIEW VILLAGE CENTRE (1963) {3 miles northwest, in the Township of North York}, YORKDALE CENTRE (1964) {4 miles west, in the Township of North York}, FAIRVIEW MALL (1970) {2.7 miles northeast, also in the Township of North York} and SCARBOROUGH TOWN CENTRE (1973) {4.9 miles northeast, in the Township of Scarborough}. 

Fairview Corporation, a division of Montreal-based CEMP Investments, acquired DON MILLS CENTRE in 1968. Fairview merged with Toronto's Cadillac Development Corporation in the spring of 1974, with the new entity known as the Cadillac Fairview Corporation. 

A roofing renovation was performed in 1977-1978, with open areas of the mall being filled in with new store space. When the 7 million dollar project was complete, DON MILLS CENTRE spanned approximately 500,000 leasable square feet and contained 98 stores and services.

Land on the periphery of the mall was developed between the 1960s and 1980s. The existing Civitan Arena, Curling Rink and movie theatre were joined by the Don Mills Post Office in 1964. 75 The Donway West, an office tower with 14 storeys and an underground parking deck, was completed in 1971. 

The Curling Rink structure was demolished in the mid-1980s and replaced by the 4-storey 49 The Donway West office building and adjoining strip plaza. The Royal Bank of Canada tower, with 6 floors and an underground parking deck, was added to the northeast corner of the mall in the late 1980s.

In order to remain competitive with the myriad of shopping malls in its vicinity, DON MILLS CENTRE was given an indoor-outdoor face lift between 1997 and 1998.  

Eaton's, once the preeminent Canadian department store chain, was in a downward spiral by this time. Bankrupt by August of 1999, the venerable retailer was acquired by Sears Canada in September of the same year. 

The DON MILLS CENTRE Eaton's was shuttered on October 17, 1999. It re-opened, as a single-level (109,000 square foot) Sears Outlet, in early 2000. This store was short-lived. It closed, with its space being occupied by National Sports. This store went dark in November 2004.

After Eaton's demise, many of the mall's more exclusive fashion stores had pulled up stakes. Eventually, most space was being leased to local, mom & pop-type tenants. It wasn't long before the proprietor, Cadillac Fairview, began to pursue redevelopment of their past-its-prime property into a more lucrative, and upscale, retail facility.

The first proposal was presented to the local government in December 2001, but was not carried out. Cadillac Fairview joined forces with the Mississauga-based FRAM Building Group and formulated a revised prospectus. A Secondary Plan was completed and submitted to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Many local residents were less than enthusiastic about the plan to raze the enclosed mall and replace it with an entirely open-air complex. They formed a citizens action group but, alas, the government rubber-stamped the mall redevelopment proposal in late 2005. DON MILLS CENTRE officially closed on May 31, 2006.

Demolition got underway in September of the same year. The only structures left permanently standing were the Dominion supermarket, RBC office tower, and 75 The Donway West tower. The Post Office and 49 The Donway West tower / strip center were temporarily spared but eventually torn down. The Civitan Arena was also retained, but was to eventually be replaced and razed.

The new SHOPS AT DON MILLS was the nation's first so-called "urban village". It was, basically, a standard lifestyle centre, which incorporated several residential apartment and condominium towers into its design.

The Dominion supermarket, a charter DON MILLS CENTRE tenant, was rebranded as a Metro Grocer operation in September 2008. Jack Astor's Bar & Grill had also been a mall tenant. In October 2008, it became one of the first SHOPS AT DON MILLS stores to open for business.

An official dedication was held April 27, 2009, when stores such as McNally Robinson Booksellers and Anthopologie opened their doors. When fully realized, SHOPS AT DON MILLS encompassed 511,800 leasable square feet and housed 72 stores and services. 

The Cineplex VIP Cinemas Don Mills, which assumed a vacant McNally Robinson space, showed its first features on August 15, 2014. On September 21, 2015, the official name of the shopping hub was changed to CF SHOPS AT DON MILLS.


"Don Mills: From Forests and Farms to Forces of Change" / Scott Kennedy
"Changing Trends in the Canadian 'Mallscape' of the 1950s and 1960s" / Marie-Josee' Therrein
"The Developers" / James Lorimer
"Eaton's: The Trans-Canada Store" / Bruce Allen Kopytek / "The Evolution of Don Mills Shopping Centre"  (website archived on Internet Archive Wayback Machine) / Spacing Toronto / Chris Bateman