David Mirvish has dodged a potential hurdle to his controversial condo proposal for King Street West and won a few more weeks to assuage concerns about its impact on the neighbourhood.
Toronto and East York Community Council took the relatively unusual step Tuesday of deciding to usher the proposal straight through to city council without choosing sides between city planning staff, who oppose the project as it's currently conceived, and Mr. Mirvish and his team, which includes world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.
While councillors voiced concerns about the proposal, they chose to support a motion from Councillor Adam Vaughan that will enable Mr. Mirvish's group to continue negotiating with Mr. Vaughan, local residents and city staff until a city council meeting scheduled for Dec. 16.
The condo proposal calls for three towers stretching 82, 84 and 86 storeys respectively, creating a total of 2,709 new units. City planners take issue with the height and density of the project, as well as the potential demolition of four heritage properties that stand where the project would go.
"This application does not represent an appropriate redevelopment of these sites and does not conform to the goal and objectives of the official plan," says a report from the planning division.
Mr. Mirvish, who wants to see the project completed quickly in part because Mr. Gehry is now 84, decided last month he would appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, because of the difficulty he was having winning over city staff. The board has scheduled a pre-hearing conference for January.
"I'm looking to consolidate my family heritage in this building," Mr. Mirvish told the community council, adding that he has asked the University of Guelph, where he is chancellor, to create a museum that addresses the heritage of the area as well as his family.
"The entertainment district has now become a residential district, and has become a very important one, but it also, I believe, is still a destination," Mr. Mirvish said. "And what Frank Gehry's buildings do is they complete that heritage in that district, they make the city a destination."
Mr. Mirvish said that his group has spent $1-million on studies that say the project would not overtax the area when it comes to issues such as sewers or transportation. He estimates that 60 per cent of the residents will walk to work in the neighbourhood.
"There are glass towers – it reminds me of every other city probably in the world – they're all filled with glass towers, they all kind of look alike, they're all kind of banal," said Mr. Gehry, who said he sees this condo project as a candelabra with three candle sticks.
Toronto resident Karin Joeveer spoke in opposition to the project, saying "Toronto is losing too many old buildings to these new skyscraping condos. "A condo tower is a condo tower and we have enough on King Street West," she said.