Mirvish says planned King Street condos are 'sculptures'
Published Monday, October 1, 2012 11:35AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 1, 2012 4:12PM EDT
Theatre impresario David Mirvish unveiled his plans for a King Street West redevelopment on Monday, striking back against criticism that he has turned his back on Toronto's arts scene in order to build condominiums.
Mirvish's ambitious plan to renovate Toronto's theatre district involves tearing down the Princess of Wales Theatre and replacing it with three massive condominium towers.
"I'm not retreating from the theatre at all; I am as involved in the theatre as I have ever been, and I will be deeper involved because that is what I do," Mirvish told a downtown gathering on Monday.
"I do theatre, I do art and I am interested in saying who we are as people through architecture."
The venue being proposed includes three towers of between 80- and 85-storeys; the towers will include a 5,500-square-metre art gallery, a new campus for the Ontario College of Art and Design University, retail space and condominiums.
"These towers can become a symbol of what Toronto can be. I am not building condominiums. I am building three sculptures for people to live in," Mirvish said.
The towers have been designed by Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry, who recently renovated the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Gehry told reporters on Monday that the design is meant to be new and innovative, and drive Toronto forward.
“We have this image of a Toronto that doesn’t really exist anymore. We are sort of yearning with nostalgia to connect to it,” he said.
The development would mean the demolition of the Princess of Wales Theatre, which opened in 1993 to house Toronto’s first run of “Miss Saigon.”
The 2,000-seat playhouse, currently showing “War Horse,” is one of four Mirvish theatres in Toronto, including the nearby Royal Alexandra.
Mirvish says his family’s restaurant and theatre developments have helped turn King Street West into a destination area, creating a place that draws tourists and locals alike. He said Mirvish theatres helped motivate the growth of restaurants and lounges in the area.
“We are no longer the motivator, I feel,” he said. “Having theatres that are not full all the time is not better than having art museums and a relationship with OCAD, and a relationship with the city.”
The project still needs to be approved by city council; a request was to be submitted on Monday. Construction of the project would take up to seven years to complete.
Some detractors to the plan quickly pointed out that seven years of construction will cause significant traffic congestion through the downtown core.
Coun. Adam Vaughan (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina) told CTV Toronto that if there isn’t construction then the city isn’t growing.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Ashley Rowe