Werner Billing is an 88-year-old resident of Don Mills and he has a special understanding of development in the area as he helped build it in the first place.
In 1953 he worked for the Don Mills Development Company under the leadership of E. P. Taylor. Two years later, after the last vestiges of farmland here were paved over, sodded and transformed into the template for suburbia in North America, he moved in.
As someone who’s seen it all in Don Mills, Billing said that although he was very disappointed to see the Don Mills Centre mall disappear and isn’t satisfied with its replacement, that he’s found some peace in city council’s decision to accept Cadillac Fairview’s proposal for new condo buildings in exchange for a new community centre.
“We’re all happy (about the community centre),” he said. “Don Mills is the only area that doesn’t have one.”
And it passed in the nick of time, according to Billing.
“If they hadn’t passed the development, the Ontario Municipal Board would have allowed all of these high-rise buildings but there wouldn’t have been the community centre,” he said.
The closure of the old mall was a major disappointment for Billing and his family, who used to shop there frequently and liked to use the centre as a reprieve from the elements, he said, adding that the outdoor aspect of the new mall was another let-down.
But from a professional perspective, the former developer can see some logic behind the condo plans.
“I like it very much because, personally, I think intensification is absolutely necessary because this urban sprawl we have all over is eating up valuable agricultural land,” he said, adding that the development feels like part of a greater move forward.
“The province is now establishing these nodes of greater concentration of developments and so this is what it is,” he said.
But as much as Billing appreciates the development from a theoretical standpoint, he still misses his old haunt.
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