Condo proposal prompts questions about impact on area

Residents and business owners have questions about how a proposed condo development along King Street West will affect the neighbourhood if it goes forward.
The addition of 3 downtown towers will also mean the loss of a theatre. 2:26

The minds behind a plan to bring three massive condo towers to King Street West, say their ambitious project will produce an end product that Torontonians can be proud of.

But the project has raised questions about how the buildings could affect the neighbourhood, both during the construction period and when they are completed.

David Mirvish formally unveiled plans Monday to build three 80-storey towers — one alongside the Royal Alexandra Theatre, with the remaining two placed in the area bounded by King, Pearl and John Streets and Ed Mirvish Way.

Renowned Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry is designing the proposed buildings, which would also be home to an art gallery, retail spaces and studios for OCAD University.

Both men say their vision is to build a set of buildings unlike any seen in Toronto before them, which when completed will be part of a vibrant downtown community.

"These towers can become a symbol of what Toronto can be," Mirvish said during a Monday news conference.

"I am not building condominiums, I am building three sculptures for people to live in."

The project has not yet been formally approved, though Mirvish has consulted a local councillor and a zoning application was expected to be filed Monday.

Coun. Adam Vaughan supports the proposed condo project, which he says will enhance the community. If it goes forward, the three towers would be built in the downtown ward he represents. (CBC)

Coun. Adam Vaughan said the proposed King Street West project is not merely another new condominium development, but an opportunity to build something that will enhance the community.

"This is something more, this is about how we change this part of the city," he told CBC News on Monday.

Prior to the news about the Mirvish-led project, there had already been local opposition to other condo development further along King Street West.

Earlier this year, Al Carbone of the nearby Kit Kat restaurant told CBC News about his opposition to another proposed King Street West condo development, which intended to construct a 47-storey building a few doors away from his business.

Carbone then said he feared the development could be a prelude to other similar projects taking root, which could eventually lead to the end of the strip known as restaurant row.

Hearing about the plans for the Gehry-designed towers, Carbone said he needed more details about what is being proposed.

"I want to find out more about it and I want to have some meetings with David Mirvish," Carbone said Monday.

More condos, more people

Ben Myers, the executive vice-president of condominium research firm Urbanation, tracks the trends in Toronto’s condo market.

Ben Myers, the executive vice-president of Urbanation, says he was surprised by the scale of the Frank Gehry-designed towers that David Mirvish has proposed building along King Street West. (CBC)

Myers told CBC News that the scope of the Mirvish proposal impressed him, given that there are no similar sized condo towers in Toronto at the moment.

If the project moves ahead, the towers will be going up in a part of the city where there are already dozens of condo projects underway.

"There’s 56 projects, 15,000 units currently on the market," said Myers.

"About 11,000 of those units are currently under construction."

With all of those units slated to be home to tenants eventually, it is expected that thousands of new residents will be moving to downtown Toronto in the future.

And that raises questions about whether the city will be able to provide those residents with the services they need.

[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=3165 size=small]

TTC commissioners say that without a downtown relief line, the transit system will be overwhelmed as the population in the area grows.

"The development must ensure that a certain amount of additional transit infrastructure is created," said Coun. Maria Augimeri. "It can’t go forward without that."

Coun. Peter Milczyn said "the only solution is another $20 to $30 billion being invested in transit."

But since that isn’t happening, Milczyn said the city should take smaller, more immediate steps to keep transit moving.

Milczyn would like to ban parking on King Street through the downtown core "at pretty much any time" and it should be treated as a transit priority route.

With reports from the CBC's Jamie Strashin and Genevieve Tomney