Frustrations simmer over decade-long wait for Don Mills community centre, but is it worth the wait?

Nine years after they were first promised a community centre, residents around the Shops of Don Mills are still waiting — and now they may have to travel farther south to get to their yet-to-be-built space.

Fed up, a group called Don Mills Residents has taken out an ad in the Toronto Star calling out Toronto Mayor John Tory and the area’s councillor to demand answers.

It’s part of a larger campaign that includes social media ads and a mailing campaign to galvanize support to turn the long-awaited space into a reality, and to call attention to plans to build the centre not in the central Don Mills neighbourhood but about a kilometre south in the Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue community.

“It’s been a decade since they’ve gotten the agreement to build the community centre,” said Stephen Ksiazek, acting digital communications director of Don Mills Residents, adding the group had signed a tri-party agreement with the City of Toronto and Cadillac Fairview in 2010.

“We’ve got a signed agreement and we want that agreement to be enforced.”

Ksiazek says the group feels misled and wants to see Tory attend a planned meeting on June 6 to speak with residents about their concerns.

Among those residents are a sizeable number of seniors who could benefit from living near a community centre, says Sharon Faulhaber.

The Shops on Don Mills may be nice in the summer, she says, “but you can’t really walk around here in the winter, so it would be nice to have something indoor.”

“Seniors need to be included in the community and if there’s no place to go — now the library is closed for repairs — what’s left?” asked Faulhaber.

Area councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong signed on to the agreement some 10 years ago, saying his support was conditional on community backing.

Since then, though, he says the area is expected to grow by 25,000 people. And on top of that, he says, new land became available — specifically at the site of the former Celestica campus.

The new plan for the centre involves a $70-million investment by the city for a larger centre than what was initially planned, over 22,000 sq. metres (5.5 acres), that includes two swimming pools, two ice rinks, a large gym and a meeting space.

It’s a plan Minnan-Wong says is much better suited to the changing makeup of the area. On top of that, he says, it will be located centrally among the communities it will serve.

“It’s a growing neighbourhood,” he said. “We need a community centre for the Wynford community, the Flemingdon community and the Don Mills community. This is a generational decision.”

As for why residents have been waiting nine years without any sign of a centre in sight, Minnan-Wong admits the wait has been a long one. But during that time, he says there have been a series of community consultations and a majority said the new plan is a better one.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something that will serve the community … for the needs of the people living now and tomorrow.”

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