David Mirvish says he will be taking his effort to build a massive new condo project in the heart of Toronto's entertainment district to the Ontario Municipal Board in January, having failed to win over city staff.
"We've been in dialogue a full year now and there is a made-in-Toronto solution that we are often confronted with, and the made-in-Toronto solution is 'fit in with what exists,'" he told an Empire Club luncheon gathering Thursday. "Don't put your head up too high, don't stick out."
But Mr. Mirvish's original vision for the project, which would rise from the current footprint of the Princess of Wales Theatre, was for three towers stretching at least 80 storeys high, towers that he referred to as "sculptures for people to live in" as opposed to condos.
"I'm bemused," Mr. Mirvish told reporters afterward. "I thought I would be welcome with open arms, and that there wasn't a more appropriate place for this type of activity than this block on King Street which balanced all those bank buildings on the other side of University."
Peter Kofman, president of Projectcore Inc., a developer and project manager that is working on the development, said that renowned architect Frank Gehry is working on the project because he wants to build something important that will get attention. While the city would like the development to blend into the area, that's exactly what the project's backers don't want to do, Mr. Kofman said.
"We're pushing the envelope in terms of new ideas," he said. "For instance, we're higher than most recent buildings."
The project's height and density are two of the main sticking points with the city, he added.
"From our perspective, we need this amount of density in order to do the things that we want to do in the base of the building," he said. The project envisions including a satellite campus for the Ontario College of Art and Design, and a museum for Mr. Mirvish's personal abstract art collection.
Mr. Mirvish told the luncheon audience that he would like the museum's regular collection to generally be free to the public, and that renting commercial space within the development would play a role in allowing that to happen.
"Most cities in Canada are symbolized by our bank towers, they dominate our downtowns," Mr. Mirvish said. "And maybe where we live is as important. And maybe where we live should rise to the same height and have the same presence."