Frank Gehry King West Toronto

Is Toronto being foolish with the Mirvish-Gehry project?

Frank Gehry and David Mirvish's bold vision for King West is in danger of being killed on account of reticence from city planners to knock down the historic warehouse buildings that line the stretch of King West where the proposed new development would sprout up. The latest news is that David Mirvish will take the proposed project to the Ontario Municipal Board in the hopes of realizing the plans he and the superstar architect revealed for a trio of towers just over a year ago.

City of Toronto planners have two concerns: 1) that the scale of the project is too grand for an area that's already undergone significant change over the last half decade, 2) that the four heritage buildings slated for demolition in the plan are too culturally valuable to sacrifice to a new development. While these objections are understandable, they're ultimately disappointing. Toronto's timidness when it comes to ambitious architecture is an old story, but I'd like to see the city break the narrative here.

There's no sense in significantly scaling back the Mirvish-Gehry proposal. Its scale is part of its allure and proposed stature. Drastically reducing the height of the buildings would be to take away something that's crucial to development, namely how bold it is. We should also bear in mind the degree to the which the podium component of the project would inject tons of energy to an area that has its sights on becoming a cultural corridor.

As for the heritage buildings, I'm a staunch proponent of preservation, and have said so many times, but when I weigh the pros and cons of losing these warehouses, I'm forced to conclude that the architectural significance of the proposed development far outweighs the cost. Toronto has destroyed far too much of its past, but we have also been too shy about saying yes to plans that would give us new monuments and landmarks. It feels strange to say this, but let's hope that the OMB sees it differently.

What do you think? Is the proposed Mirvish-Gehry development a good thing for this city?


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