As the president of the DMRI, I have been reflecting on Don Mills and its unique character.
The Don Mills Residents Inc. is a residents’ association, rather than strictly a homeowners’ association. The volunteer board works for all the residents in the neighbourhood, to maintain the character and beauty of Don Mills that attracted you to live here in the first place.
We are very fortunate to live in a neighbourhood that is unique in many ways. We have all heard that Don Mills was the first planned community in Canada but what does that actually mean? It means that rather than having straight grid streetscapes, the streets of Don Mills are designed to slow vehicular traffic using winding roads, T-intersections and cul-de-sacs. Don Mills was designed in four quadrants, anchored by The Don Mills Shopping Centre at Don Mills Road and Lawrence. There have been many changes over the years as urban renewal has taken place. The old curling rink, Odeon theatre and bowling alley are long gone, as are many of the small service stations. The Don Mills Shopping Centre began as an open air mall, was then enclosed and is once again open. The one constant is the location of the centre of Don Mills. On any given day, Spring, Summer and Fall, the open air area in the Shops at Don Mills is still the town square.
One of the guiding principles of the planning of Don Mills was the separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic which was accomplished through the creation of a network of pedestrian paths providing easy access via the parks to area schools and the town centre. We might take for granted all the interconnecting pathways that run through the neighbourhood, but these are a unique feature to Don Mills. These pathways allow residents the ability to teach a young child how to ride a bike on a flat safe path, or an elderly person to take a walk, or a child get to school without having to negotiate a busy street.
The ravine system that has been improved upon over the years lets you escape the city in a matter of minutes. One of the areas where you can enter the ravine system is Moccasin Trail Park. The trail starts right at the parking lot, and once you walk through the tunnel under the DVP, you feel you are out of the city. Deer, Fox, hawks and the occasional coyote can be seen and in the autumn, salmon find their way all the way up from the Lake.
Don Mills was designed to incorporate a variety of types of homes. Our streets include bungalows, one and a half story homes, semi-detached and low-rise apartments. The streetscape for all of these includes large grassy areas with deep setbacks from the streets.
It might surprise you to know that there are twice as many apartment units in Don Mills as there are houses. This was part of the original planning that also included integration of industry into the community. Planners felt it was important for residents to live and work in the same neighbourhood so that Don Mills would not become a bedroom community. A sizable number of higher residential densities, townhouses and low-rise apartments were essential if Don Mills was to attract a cross-section of residents working in local industries.
It is this unique character of Don Mills that the DMRI has tried to maintain and defend. This does not mean keeping everything as it is with no new development, but to maintain the ideals that attracted people to live here in the first place. Every year the City of Toronto has been growing by tens of thousands of people. Don Mills has had many new condominium buildings built, and over the next decade this development will increase. The volunteer board members of the DMRI are working with the city and developers on projects that won’t break ground for years but are in the concept stages now. Sometimes the DMRI must fight to achieve the balance between what the developers want and what is more in keeping with the original concepts of the “Garden City” as Don Mills is called in the secondary plan. This is not an attempt to stop or even curb development, but endeavour to enhance how the new developments will integrate into Don Mills.
Over the years, we have hired Planners, Lawyers and other professionals to help us achieve the goal of making Don Mills a wonderful place in which to live, raise a family, and retire. It is only through the support of our members that we can do this work. If you are a member of the DMRI, thank you, and if you are not, I would ask that you become one. The cost of being a member is only $25 per household per year. Simply complete the membership form at the back of this newsletter, and mail in the self-addressed envelope provided. Many of the issues we address never come to the attention of the neighbourhood, but let it be known that the volunteer board of the DMRI is working hard to defend the ideals and feeling of Don Mills.
If you would like to contact me to discuss an issue arising in the neighbourhood, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are here to help in any way we can.
I wish the entire community all the best for 2020!