David Mirvish and Frank Gehry to transform King St. strip into culture and condo complex
by: Toronto Star Oct 1, 2012
The podium of the mega project stretches more than a block along King St. West. The development, expected to take four to seven years to construct, will sweep across six Mirvish-owned properties.
Photo courtesy Gehry International Inc./Photo courtesy Gehry International Inc.
David Mirvish and Frank Gehry are boldly planning a mega culture-and-condo complex that brings down the curtain on the Princess of Wales theatre and will transform Toronto’s Entertainment District, the Star has learned.
The complex will give Toronto two new museums, including one that showcases the sensational abstract art collection of David and Audrey Mirvish. The other museum will feature the collection of OCAD University, along with studios, seminar rooms and a hall for public lectures.
Mirvish, the king of Toronto theatre, and Gehry, the world’s most celebrated living architect, are collaborating on the visionary project. They’re working on a canvas that stretches along the north side of King Street West all the way from the corner of John, crosses Ed Mirvish Way and extends eastward for another half block to the edge of the venerable Royal Alexandra Theatre, purchased 50 years ago by David’s father, the late “Honest” Ed Mirvish.
That theatre, built in 1907, will survive, but the Princess of Wales, which opened in 1993, will be scrapped to make way for the new centre.
Call it the end of one era and the dawn of a new one.
Offering multi-level podiums with terraces and retail shops at its base, the complex will reach skyward with three dancing condo towers, over 80 stories tall — each one different — designed by Gehry in a way that comments on the fabric of the city where he grew up.
The development, expected to take four to seven years to construct, will sweep across six Mirvish-owned properties, some of which were once homes to restaurants opened by Ed Mirvish, David’s father. Those properties will all come down to make way for the new development. And while some of the buildings are designated, it is understood they are not covered with easement agreements that would prevent them being torn down.
“We see an opportunity to join our history with Frank Gehry’s history and continue our ongoing commitment to the neighbourhood,” said Mirvish, who owns two other Toronto theatres (the Ed Mirvish Theatre and the Panasonic) besides the two on King Street.
He declined to put a price tag on the complex, but it’s almost sure to be in the billion-dollar range.
The Mirvish museum (60,000 square feet) will offer free public access and house a selection of Mirvish’s more than 1,100 abstract paintings (by artists including Frank Stella, Jack Bush, Jules Olitski, David Smith and Helen Frankenthaler). For years most of these paintings — acquired in his first career as an art dealer from 1963 to 1978 — have been in storage, and are frequently lent to museums in Europe and the U.S. for special exhibitions. The Mirvish collection will be presented to the public with free admission except for special exhibitions.
Gehry, 83, is flying to Toronto from Los Angeles, where he has lived and worked for most of his career, for Monday’s official announcement of the project. Appropriately, that event will take place at the only other Gehry building in Canada — the Art Gallery of Ontario, which reopened four years ago after he reinvented it.
“We’re at a very early stage of development,” said Mirvish.
Step one will be an application to the city of Toronto for zoning approval, to be submitted immediately.
The west section of the complex has a podium with the Mirvish collection in the atrium and terraces overlooking King Street and David Pecaut Square. Soaring above the podium are two residential towers, each with a distinctive identity, rising 80 stories above the street.
“Doing a project on this scale is like docking the Queen Mary,” Gehry quipped in an interview with the Star. “It’s always precarious, because so much depends on the marketplace and world events and construction prices. It’s because of the art component that we like the project so much. I am ecstatic to be doing something near my old Toronto neighbourhood, and also to be collaborating with David. Whatever we do we want to be very special”
According to Mirvish, the project would deliver enormous benefits to the city in terms of jobs and taxes. Peter Kofman of Projectcore Inc. will take charge of the project’s development, management and construction.
As for the demise of the Princess of Wales, Mirvish said while it is a great building, the new centre will be even greater with two museums and other features. “The podium will become a major cultural destination,” he said. “The towers will not be just condos but a symbol of the city by our greatest architect.”
Frank Stella who painted the decorative theme for the Princess of Wales Theatre is working with Gehry to create new work for the public areas of the new complex, integrating art and architecture.
And most of Stella’s work from the doomed theatre will be saved and stored for possible future use. Stella will be in Toronto Monday to take part in the official announcement.
“This area was transformed 50 years ago after my father purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre,” Mirvish said. Then that theatre was the only cultural building in the area. Today it has been joined by Roy Thomson Hall, TIFF Bell Lightbox and David Pecaut Square.
“This project will continue the theatre’s future and transform the neighbourhood again for the next 50 years,” he said. “I am proud that we can continue this legacy.”