Marco Muzzo's name is stamped all over the suburbs west of Toronto. He didn't know that 11 years after his death, he would risk being confused with an infamous drunk driver with the same name – his grandson.
Mississauga City Council waited just a day after the sentencing of 29-year-old Marco Muzzo Jr. to tweak the name of a park dedicated to his grandfather, a real estate tycoon who built up large swaths of Southern Ontario.
The change was inevitable after dozens of requests from residents since September, when the younger Mr. Muzzo killed three children and their grandfather in a car crash, said Sue McFadden, the councillor for the area that includes the park. Lest people believe the green space was named after him, a single word will serve as the fix: The Marco Muzzo Memorial Woods and Park will now be known as the Marco Muzzo Senior Memorial Woods and Park.
It could be the first of several name tweaks as people lobby to dissociate local landmarks from the tragedy.
But seeing the elder Muzzo forcefully distanced from his namesake also saddened his friends, who said the self-made billionaire would have been upset enough over his grandson's actions without any extra controversy around their shared name.
"He kept things to himself," said John Rogers, an urban planning consultant who considered Mr. Muzzo Sr. a mentor and friend. "He was in the background. I think he may have just said, 'You don't need to name any park after me. Just forget it.'"
The dilemma over how to simultaneously honour and censure the two Marcos began immediately after the Vaughan crash, which happened as Mr. Muzzo Jr. drove home from the airport after his bachelor party in Miami.
Amid a flood of angry calls, Ms. McFadden told constituents she would make no decision until Mr. Muzzo had had his day in court. That also gave her time to weigh her options, she said. "They wanted [the name] completely down, and I wasn't going to do that," she said. "Marco Muzzo [Sr.] was a wonderful man."
But the city of Mississauga has its own standards to uphold, naming its spaces only after people with the highest reputation, and she sympathized with the outraged constituents, she said. "In my heart of hearts, being a mother of seven children, certainly I was horrified by this," she said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Muzzo Jr. received a 10-year prison sentence. On Wednesday, Mississauga councillors considered the name change pressing enough to waive a routine 30-day waiting period. In the end, there was no easy solution, Ms. McFadden said.
"He'd be rolling over in his grave right now," she said. "Marco Muzzo [Sr.] was an absolutely phenomenal man, and he would be devastated, absolutely devastated. And the last thing I wanted to do is take this away from his family, and from him, but we have to have this disconnect from his grandson."
Mr. Rogers said both parts of the story would horrify the developer, who cared deeply about family and would have stood by his grandson while grieving over his "big, big mistake."
The elder Muzzo didn't ask for public recognition, said Mr. Rogers, and the park was dedicated to him two years after his death. "That's a shame that it has to come to that," said Mr. Rogers, when told of the park's new name. "I'm flabbergasted."
The Muzzo family couldn't be reached for comment.
Mr. Muzzo Sr. was a prolific builder of suburban homes, condo towers and retail malls, first buying land in Southern Ontario in the 1970s. Canadian Business magazine estimates the Muzzo estate to be worth more than $1.7-billion. The family business is currently run by an uncle of Mr. Muzzo Jr., whose father died of cancer in 2004. The family has dedicated hundreds of acres of parkland and has donated to local causes, earning namesakes across Greater Toronto.
Rafay Aman lives near the Marco Muzzo park and attends the University of Toronto Mississauga, where a library atrium bears the same name. He said he thinks renaming the park was "the right call," and that he hopes the university will do the same.
"Many people aren't aware who Marco Muzzo [Sr.] is, despite living in Mississauga," he said. "Many students at UTM have brought it up in the past few weeks … questioning why the library was named after a drunk driver."
There have been no complaints about the name to the university administration, and it has no plans to change it, spokeswoman Jane Stirling said.
With a report from Affan Chowdhry