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David Mirvish and Frank Gehry want to raze the Princess of Wales Theatre to build condos

(Image: Gehry International, Inc)

Over the weekend, theatre tycoon David Mirvish unveiled a grand plan to knock down a section of the entertainment district that includes the Princess of Wales Theatre, and replace it with three 80-storey condo towers designed by Frank Gehry. (At the moment, the renowned Toronto-born architect’s redesign of the AGO remains his only major contribution to the local cityscape.) The project, which would nestle along King Street between the Royal Alexandra and the TIFF Bell Lightbox, would contain all manner of development goodies, according to Mirvish:

Our vision is a project that will encompass three distinct and remarkable residential towers that will be unlike anything that has been built in Toronto. They will be grounded by stepped podiums that will house a large, new public gallery called the Mirvish Collection, a new campus for the OCAD University, and planted terraces that will create a green silhouette overlooking King Street.

In his announcement, Mirvish underscored how the project’s ambitious and innovative design would celebrate both Gehry and the art of architecture (“I am not building condominiums, I am building three sculptures”). He also talked up the gallery and retail spaces, the former for his substantial art collection, and the latter because “you still can’t buy a nice pair of shoes here.”

Still, with over 2,600 units, the project is a major foray into the real-estate market more than anything else. The massive new towers would contribute to the breakneck speed of condo development in Toronto, which hasn’t slowed down despite concerns about the city’s “Manhattanization” and the market’s dramatic (and induced) cooldown this summer.

  • John Davidson

    This is the right idea but in the wrong location. Putting it on King St. will create a perpetually windy canyon of towers. Yes, New York has these types of streets but they are much wider than King St. Why are we ‘fixing’ this neibourhood anyhow? It’s already quite nice and affordable for the middle class to enjoy. By bringing King St. up to the price point of Bloor St. you create another enclave that only the elite can afford to patronize. Also, with all the other towers being built around it, these buildings will not even stand out. The right place for this is on the ‘Honest Ed’s’ footprint. It’s right on the subway, would revitalize a neibourhood, would continue the line of museums already on Bloor St., and would stand out from a distance because there would not be other tall buildings around it. I know we keep Honest Ed’s around for nostalga purposes, but since Mr. Mirvish is so keen to move us forward and ‘build a place to buy a good pair of shoes’, should’nt he start by renewing his own delapitated property? The folks who currently patronize Honest Ed’s will be able to go to the new Wallmart about to be built at Bathurst/College, just a few blocks south.

  • Natasha

    Does Toronto really need MORE condos and upscale residential development? We have more cranes than Dubai on our skyline. It seems such a shame that this beautiful theatre – the Princess of Wales – will be demolished. It is more than metaphoric for the state of our city’s cultural demise. Once upon a time, we had a lead in the world’s stage show – and now we’re giving it all up. Who will buy these condos? Who will live in these spaces? How many more people could POSSIBLY be in the market?We are going to end up with skeletons crowding our skyline, and a housing-market crash akin to our southern neighbours.

  • BrianSYYZ

    The traffic in that area, with THREE 80-story condos will be even more ridiculous than it is now.

    But to me, it’s really sad that the only monument we have to honour the late Diana, Princess of Wales, will be demolished with no mention of any other monument taking its place.

    Will Toronto put up some other sort of monument in her honour?

  • opl

    Does the world really need another Frank Gehry?

  • Suzy

    John Davidson… you are truly a voice of reason and sound rationale. Absoultely! Why King st ? And I can see your point on Bloor/Bathurst which needs a lift more than anything else and he owns Honest Ed and the subway is right there. Natasha, wake up! You are living in the 60′s. If we want to run a world class city, this is the way to go as we do have the demand. These condos are cheap on the international market and drawing investors to our city, let them come.Opl or Opi – Yeah..we need another visionary like Gehry, not someone like you who lack vision and 25th century thinking. Go Toronto – You belong UP there but not on King West. Let’s cut this sentimental stupidity about Princess Diana and go plant a tree in your backyard to remember her.

  • W. K. Lis

    If there are too many theatres in Toronto, instead of tearing down the Princess of Wales, consider the Toronto Centre for the Arts instead. Build condos around the Princess of Wales and replace the North York site of Toronto Centre for the Arts with condos.

  • tony

    Its going to be great!….stay the course Mr. Gehry & Mr. Mirvish.

  • Trey

    Haha, plant a tree. I was thinking the same thing though, as the Princess of Wales theatre was/is as much an honour to the late Diana as the concrete slab called the QEW is to honour Elizabeth. We don’t really need monuments to fallen british monarchs. If we are going to honour something we should at least show enough pride to honour are own.

  • Peter

    mirvish has the right to tear down Princess of Wales because he OWNS IT. boo hoo, were losing a theatre that was built in 1993. if the market is there, they will build a new one nearby. the mirvishes basically created the theatre district, and they will continue to in the future. there are two galleries in this building. and gehry is one of the greatest architects in the world. furthermore, if you are complaining that toronto ‘doesnt need more condos’, this is more a reflection of fatigue fromt he current condo boom. the fact is, these condos wont go on sale for at least 5 years.

  • Suzy

    Peter… they will go on sale before that as they are scheduled to be built and ready in 6-7 years.. once they get city council approval, they will go on sale. Possibly at $700 per sq ft to say you live in a Gehry building on overrated and hyped King West!

  • Luca

    That is going to be awesome…can’t wait to have to drive by there when a just few extra people are leaving the building during rush hour, or trying to get back in later. It is only 2600 condo’s being added to one block, what could be wrong with that, as long as we get more Gehry buildings.
    Glad that traffic, driving and parking are not an issue at all downtown. We don’t need to worry about wind tunnels, greenspace, culture, history or population density, as long as we can add even more giant structures full of people everywhere.

  • Frank Hazelwood

    Awesome or as my Grandson would say. “Cool”. Now Toronto will be the place to live and call home.

    Many thanks to Mr. Mervish and Mr. Gehry, for bring Toronto into the 21 centry.

  • julie

    don’t care what they do….just so long as they put in a larger number of washrooms! trying to get back to your seats with 45 women in front of you in line during a 15 minute intermission = late arrivals for act 2

  • oi!

    I love Gehry’s work. I don’t mind condo living. The HUGE problem I have is with city planning. King West has the worst traffic flow ever. I really hope that they have solid backing to address the traffic problem here. If they make it a pedestrian only zone, or require massive numbers of underground parking spots to remove all street level parking, that would be something.

  • K

    @ julie – did you read the article? it’s about putting up condos and getting RID of the theatre. not expanding it with the possibility of larger washrooms. derp. it’s absolutely the worst space to place these condos. but i assume it’s because of TIFF and all the press toronto would receive from this crap. totally wrong.

  • K

    and a new campus for OCAD? hell no!!! graduating from ocad art (unless youre design) doesnt turn into much so expanding an already failing art school sounds like an idiotic idea to me. ugh!

  • DrowsyChaperone

    Tearing down the Princess of Wales? Why? It’s such an absolutely gorgeous and massive theatre. So disappointed in Mirvish.