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Giant Mirvish + Gehry condos could be cut down to size

Posted by Chris Bateman / December 19, 2013

toronto mirvish gehryFrank Gehry's bold concept for three massive condos on King Street West could be trimmed through discussions with a new working group set up at yesterday's council meeting. Council voted down the current proposal for three high-rise residential towers, opting instead to establish a special 14-member group to prevent the project going to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The working group to be chaired by local councillor Adam Vaughan will consist of "prominent Torontonians" and help resolve concerns from local residents over height, density, and the impact its 2,709 units would have on the already strained public transit in the area.

In a presentation before city council, chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat showed a revised version of the three towers that had been reduced to "a more appropriate scale and more proportionate to the surroundings" - 60, 55 and 50 storeys from east to west, down from 82, 86 and, 84 storeys.

The alternative development concept (shown above,) which was not created with input from David Mirvish or Frank Gehry, also preserves the heritage warehouses currently on the Entertainment District site, buildings the original plans proposed to demolish.

toronto mirvish gehryAdam Vaughan told the Star the panel will seek "a way to say yes" to the proposal, which also includes an art gallery and a new campus for OCAD University. The group will hold at least one public meeting and will report back to council in March 2014.

Meanwhile, an OMB pre-hearing is scheduled for January.

What do you think of the scaled-down proposal? Do the towers propose an excessive level of density for King West?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: City of Toronto



DL / December 19, 2013 at 08:54 am
I hate this city so much sometimes. You have something game-changing and they are Spadina'ing the hell out of it.
Steve / December 19, 2013 at 08:57 am
Sigh, once again Toronto proves itself to still be thinking provincially and have zero ambition. I like the changes to the base, but the way the architecture of these buildings will be fully realized and appreciated is with their original height.
DLisDumb replying to a comment from DL / December 19, 2013 at 09:02 am
Your pie in the sky architectural wet dream will add to the hyperdensity of the area without providing any of the critically needed infrastructure.

What do people downtown need more? Beautiful buildings, new OCAD campuses, and art galleries or supermarkets, transit, and room to walk on the sidewalk.

Is there a master plan for the downtown core or can any rich crackpot just propose new condos and push them through the OMB?
Al replying to a comment from DLisDumb / December 19, 2013 at 09:14 am
People make those density arguments anytime anything new is built. Sure, the streetcars on King are crowded going to downtown, but this is already there. Are people from these towers going to take a streetcar two blocks to the financial core or the subway? The sidewalks are easily passable, except when people are lined up for a show at the Princess of Wales. If you are worried about mobility on sidewalks, you should be applauding.

Jane Jacobs is dead, and her theories are outdated. This city has shown that high-density neighbourhoods can be livable. This will take cars off the road as it will allow people to walk to work.
BillyO / December 19, 2013 at 09:20 am
Before someone comes in with the tired 'if this was NYC the building would already be approved' nonsense just know that they have waaaaay stricter policies governing theses kinds of things and NYC council rejected a proposal to massively rezone midtown east.

Also, these towers will be approved more or less as they are proposed with better heritage integration and possible a small height decrease (78, 74 and 72 stories). All this extra hoopla is just to appease NIMBY's and other groups. Keep in mind there will be huge area improvements including the John Street cultural corridor, David Pecault Square plus all the other goodies already promised like OCAD, Mirvish collection, retail, etc

One more thing - while the buikding will add 2700 units, even without them some 18,000 residents will be moving in this area over next decade or so give what is built, under construction and proposed. High density here cannot be avoided, get used to it.
Robert replying to a comment from DLisDumb / December 19, 2013 at 09:20 am
What you are missing is that have all you want you need people to support it. To get the people you need to provide housing.
The inner city was abandoned for the suburbs half a century ago, we just barely avoided having it torn down for highways. Luckily Toronto is resilient enough to have survived and we did not see the devastating effect we see in American cities.
The past few years has seen a 'catch up' with the building of 10,000's of homes in the city. With that has brought a resurgence of renewal and discovery in long forget neighbourhoods. There is more of everything now, restaurants, theatre, event venues, galleries, public spaces etc, and lets not forget the large increase in employment.
A city is not a collection of buildings and roads but the people that live there. Buildings with adapt to the needs of the people not the other way around.
Qaf / December 19, 2013 at 09:23 am
It's a condo with two big names attached to it, not some architectural wonder of the world. At the end of it all, whatever it looks like, it's money in the pockets of developers and a place for investors to park money.
Will / December 19, 2013 at 09:38 am
Biggest fallacy in all of contemporary urban planning is that "too much" height and density reduces the quality of life. It's ingrained in every planner in planning school, but it isn't based on any reality. I live in lower Manhattan, and it's one of the greatest places in the world. The influx of high density residential uses has transformed what was once purely a financial district into another distinct mixed-use neighborhood within NYC. Billions of dollars in transit improvements to accomidate the growing population are flowing into the city. The more density, the better. Toronto seems to be too meek and afraid of embracing its strongest asset: that people want to live in the city.
jen / December 19, 2013 at 10:08 am
That's much nicer!
J\ / December 19, 2013 at 10:10 am
A 14 member group? Seriously? Hopefully Mirvish just pushes through with the OMB.

Also - if the whole idea is only about saving the façades of the heritage properties - why not use them somewhere else? The interiors will likely be demolished regardless of the outcome. There are plenty of other buildings around the city that could use the help.

The density argument is complete rubbish - and everyone knows it. There's a subway line and two streetcar lines within 100m of the site.
Gustav / December 19, 2013 at 11:00 am
Go tall! We have all kinds of generic, tall towers and you want to shorten a trio of bold and beautiful new ones? Dumb.
Jimmy / December 19, 2013 at 11:06 am
60 storeys is still pretty tall, so I think its fine. Its great that theyre preserving the heritage building as well.
RKMK / December 19, 2013 at 11:06 am
I live in the area, and the only way the increased congestion will work is if you ban parking and anything that's not a taxi, streetcar, or bicycle on King St. Yeah, I walk a lot locally; but if I'm trying to venture farther (east, west, whatever, filled-to-the-gills streetcars are locked between cars. And if you look holistically - there are another half-dozen condo sites (at least) within a three-block radius that are going to be significantly increasing density before they even start moving on this one.
Graeme / December 19, 2013 at 11:08 am
I'm all for high density as long as it has regard for the Skyline. This however does not. Toronto loves Frank Gehry because he lived here for a small portion of his life, but when it comes down to it. These buildings are ugly. Hire an architect that brings something nice to the city. Norman Foster did a great job at UofT. Mies's TD Centre is a landmark. This is just gonna be another ROM situation.
RKMK / December 19, 2013 at 11:10 am
Oh, and if you want some context, the condo buildings along Front St are about 40 storeys.
aesthetic / December 19, 2013 at 11:11 am
you can still make an architecturally beautiful building without going so tall.

the point is if we allow that massive triple tower development in that part of the downtown, it will set a new precedent for ever taller (most likely blander) buildings in the area.

the area infrastructure cannot support that many units at this time. I say we build up crazy tall buildings in the portlands. an experimental enclave of daring architecture.
Rick / December 19, 2013 at 11:14 am
These could have been landmark buildings at the higher heights.
Todd Toronto replying to a comment from Will / December 19, 2013 at 11:21 am
In theory, you're correct, but in Toronto, when has higher density ever lead to transit improvements?

Also, many transit improvements in Lower Manhattan are either the directly or indirect result of the impact of 9/11.
Hazel / December 19, 2013 at 11:31 am
I thought at first NO WAY, and I still don't think they need to be that tall - but after second thought and hearing some valid points by Adam Vaughan I reconsidered. There will be a fantastic art gallery and space for OCADU. And it is Gehry, no slouch. He's fantastic. If it isn't Gehry, it will just be another 30-storey glass and concrete building, same as the hundreds in Toronto with no architectural merit whatsoever. Just cut it down to a manageable size (less than 20 storeys). And replying to "DL is Dumb" (mature moniker by the way) This is what you said. "What do people downtown need more? Beautiful buildings, new OCAD campuses, and art galleries or supermarkets, transit, and room to walk on the sidewalk." Well, OCAD campus, art gallery and beautiful buildings will be included. New buildings don't impinge on the walkability of the sidewalk and heaven help the people that buy condos at King and John and cannot find it within themselves to walk to work.
JoeCarter / December 19, 2013 at 11:31 am
I think at this point in Toronto, we need to find ways to both preserve the existing, heritage architecture while still pushing to be a leader in contemporary design. Adopting current heritage buildings into new designs is a fantastic way to acknowledge our past and future at the same time. Leveling heritage buildings for one man's vision seems to be shortsighted and only exists to rub an ego of what HIS perception of Toronto's future landscape.

However, the issue of density should be acknowledged. The core is such a clusterfuck during peak hours that adding an additional 3 towers of people would seem almost ignorant to the current problems. Kind of like Liberty village and their ONE ROAD entrance/exit. Good luck with that, suckers.
Josh Nelson replying to a comment from DL / December 19, 2013 at 11:48 am
I completely agree! There is literally no future thinking from a majority of the people. Todays calendar says 2013, what are they intended for when it says 2023, 2033, or 2053? They allow Concord and Tridel to scar the waterfront with junk but when real architecture gets proposed a team is put together to destroy it.

The Entertainment district around John Street from the waterfront up to AGO is becoming extremely exciting. The view between the AGO and these towers alone would be worth it. Now imagine looking back from the CN tower, or flying into Porter.

Check out this graphic
J / December 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm
Gehry's gonna have a conniption when he see's that image. And for what it's worth - the tower's should slant the other way. John street is a becoming a cultural corridor - it makes sense to have the height on John - make it a gateway.
Jan Moore / December 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm
Extremly ugly ... and none of them should be built. Just because "you can" doesn't mean you should ... And the heights are still too tall ... how about some elegant, historical-style architecture?
Frankly / December 19, 2013 at 01:26 pm
Go big or go home! Trying to get Gehry's vision to blend and play nice with the surrounding cityscape is a waste of time. His buildings are outsized and demand the space to dominate. Hate to say it, but if the goal is to reduce the impact of his design, then Mirvish might want to abandon Gehry's construct altogether. One doesn't ask a titan to kneel....
DL replying to a comment from DLisDumb / December 19, 2013 at 01:34 pm
Places to Grow provided the master plan for many downtowns, and what it advocated was DENSITY IN DOWNTOWNS ACROSS THE GTA! Read a planning document before spewing your uninformed mind online.
Taller is Better / December 19, 2013 at 02:01 pm
I love the design of these buildings. If anything they should be taller! It would make a real statement about our city to the rest of the world. We need more avant garde architecture in this city and these buildings are a fantastic design. We shouldn't be worried about the warehouse "heritage" building that will be demolished. What purpose do they serve? They aren't warehouses anymore and they aren't particularly nice to look at. This location is perfect for high density housing, it's right downtown. Transit becomes less problematic too, because if the people who live here don't work in the core they'll be going against the transit tide of people coming into the core. More density on the subway line makes sense. And did they worry about the shadow the Empire State Building would cast when they built it? We need more iconic buildings like this in Toronto. I'm tired of the concrete and glass boxes that developers keep building..
Jerke Wadde / December 19, 2013 at 03:24 pm
This debate perfectly sums up what is wrong with Toronto. We can't build hi-rises due to woefully unprepared transit on King Street. And it's true! The King line is bursting at the seams and yet the only subways proposed are for extending up and out into Ford Nation, where they aren't anywhere near capacity. Meanwhile, people cram into the King streetcar, where the line is probably triple capacity and still the condos are going up.

If there was an ounce of will and vision on city council, the very first priority would be the DRL subway line from Dundas West station to Union, and possibly beyond. Nothing else should even be discussed until shovels and in the ground building this. It should have been started 20 years ago!
Graeme replying to a comment from Jerke Wadde / December 19, 2013 at 03:46 pm
Unfortunately Engineers, Urban Planners, and Architects don't build cities. Shortsighted, vote seeking politicians do.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Jerke Wadde / December 19, 2013 at 04:12 pm
We need a DRL, but not this monstrosity or the Scarborough Stubway.

Speaking of the Scarborough Stubway, why can't Gehry and the other condo-lovers/builders build these things IN Scarborough? It would help having a Scarborough subway a whole lot better than building them on King Street or Yonge.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Al / December 19, 2013 at 04:17 pm
Jane Jacobs MAY be dead, but her theories aren't, and morons like you would do well to remember that before you open your mouths next time. Also, try reading about her instead of just being such a condo freak.
Craig / December 19, 2013 at 05:24 pm
Dream small....Toronto's new motto.

Chicago thinks big and its architecture reflects that.

We get piecemeal. Subways get expanded two stops at a time, with no vision for anything comprehensive. Big ideas are chopped down to size.

If you can't build tall buildings in the core, where in hell can you build them? Should make it 100 floors. Define the skyline with something awesome.

Everyone fears change.

Re: "heritage". When was the last time anyone said, "you have to see this warehouse at 322 King?" It's not Gooderham, City Hall, the U of T campus, Old City Hall in terms of notable architecture.

While we're at it - Kill the dumb LCBO, make last call 3AM, kill the moronic beer store and its terrible selection and crummy service, breathe some goddamn life into this moribund place. Too many laws, too many statist/socialist imbeciles like Adam Vaughan.
jon lofto / December 19, 2013 at 07:44 pm
Fuck you Toronto.
Pluckysod / December 19, 2013 at 09:12 pm
Mirvish has money, but that shouldn't give him the right to impose his aesthetic or his choice of architect on Toronto. For a redevelopment of such a large chunk of the downtown core, there should be a competition open to all architects. By all means, let Mirvish be one of the jurors, but it's unthinkable that this goes through without a competition.
Leo / December 19, 2013 at 09:50 pm
Interesting how stupidity and poor taste can be masked as a residents' concern. Really, three 85-story buildings will make it too "dense", but three 55-storey buildings will not?

The original project was controversial but interesting, could potentially become a landmark in our poorly planned city. Well, who needs new and interesting buildings? Let's just stay boring and allow bureaucrats continue building careers on overruling new ideas.
Sit Down replying to a comment from Pluckysod / December 19, 2013 at 09:58 pm
The fact is Mirish is bankrolling the development and in-doing so he can select who ever he wants to design the buildings. Gehry, is the very best in the world and any city is lucky to have one of his buildings. We should be proud that he is Canadian!
v79 replying to a comment from Jerke Wadde / December 19, 2013 at 10:08 pm
People who'd live in these towers would have no use for the King line. They have the subway nearly at their doorsteps. The only people who use the King street cars are the ones who live on either end of it and work in the core. Most of the city has never set foot on it, as there are much more convenient east/west lines nearby that don't lead to nowhere useful, like King does.
gbenji / December 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm
Keep the heritage buildings and build the gehry condos on one of the many large surface parking lots downtown. Why demolish paradise and you can build on a parking lot?
Jeremy Larter / December 20, 2013 at 12:08 am
Preserve the heritage buildings? What exactly is worth preserving in those building? Isn't one of them a giant golf retail outlet right now? Are they that significant to the history of Toronto that they're worth saving?

C'mon Toronto. A city with this many new, cookie cutter buildings is worried about tearing down a few old warehouses that mean almost nothing to the history of the city, to meddle with the vision of a great architect? Think bold Toronto.
Dave / December 20, 2013 at 01:04 am
If these buildings go ahead, it will be impossible to say no to anything under 86 stories west of University. Sad but true: That's how the OMB works.

The area doesn't have the infrastructure to accomodate that kind of hyperdensification.
Shirley / December 20, 2013 at 01:13 am
When Ed Mirvish passed, I knew this would happen. His kid is nothing like him.

New tall condo buildings mean, less old buildings, less old houses, less sunlight, less green space, less air; more bodies (population), more green gases (pollution), more kids in the existing schools, more pressure on hospitals, TTC etc. Think you get my point.

Where are all of these people going to work?

Seriously! Another boring art gallery? What do developers have against fun? An opera house would be better than an art gallery.

Build these 3 condo's and more will come (just like Lakeshore, can't even see the lake-hardly-anymore).

I'm not anti-condo. Just worry a tad about density. Makes me think of China.

Water into beer / December 20, 2013 at 08:33 am
Okay kids, this is how it will go down. The buildings will be approved at a 50-55 story height, and then Adam Vaughan will pull the section 37 rabbit out of the hat, the buildings will go up another 30 stories and he will again put millions into his 55 million dollar slush fund (and counting.) This guy must love Ford the clown as it gives him protective coloration. This crook needs outing!
Milo replying to a comment from Craig / December 20, 2013 at 09:27 am
I never thought I would be defending Adam Vaughan, and I don't deny any part of your description of him, but in this case he has actually been pulling for these condos to get built as designed. Sounds like he's had to settle for this task force thing to appease the the other side. Let's hope he can make some progress, or that the OMB can greenlight this.
Lofty J replying to a comment from Pluckysod / December 20, 2013 at 07:37 pm
Honestly, kill yourself.
Garneau / December 25, 2013 at 12:30 am
The issue isn't that Mirvish/Gehry get a free pass. The problem is that there are so many cheap, trashy looking condos that appear to have sailed through the approval process, which have done absolutely nothing to beautify the city, and then when a visionary design is proposed the term "hyperdensity" rears its head and the proposal gets rejected. That's what is maddening. Beauty should've been a requirement of every other one of those bland "great wall of condos" too.
Noah / January 14, 2014 at 01:35 pm
Not only is this alternate plan pathetic and small-minded, the scale of it makes no sense. To create that second rendering of the city's idea, they literally just scale down the image, making all three buildings far skinnier than they would be at that height.

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