A prominent Toronto theatre could be torn down to make way for a major condominium project, which would also be home to an art gallery, retail spaces and a new campus for a downtown university.
Art and theatre impresario David Mirvish released a letter to the media Sunday, a day before he will unveil his formal plans to build a three-tower condominium project, which will be designed by renowned Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry.
"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," Mirvish said in his letter released Sunday.
"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."
Each of the three towers will have a different look, with each tower having "a different form, façade and use of materials," Mirvish said.
One will be built alongside the Royal Alexandra Theatre, while the remaining two will be constructed in the area bordered by Pearl, John and King Streets and Ed Mirvish Way.
Mirvish estimates the project will take three to seven years to complete, through several phases.
Adam Vaughan, the city councillor whose ward is home to the proposed condo project, said a formal application will soon be filed and a community consultation process would follow.
"This building in particular though, is a very complex construction site and touches a number of very difficult projects in the city," Vaughan told CBC News in an interview on Sunday.
"And so how we build it is going to be as critical as to how we process the application."
Project would demolish modern theatre
The Princess of Wales Theatre will need to be demolished in order to make way for the new project, just two decades after Mirvish and his father built it and opened it to the public.
"If there were a way of completing this project without removing the Princess of Wales Theatre, we would have followed it," said Mirvish.
"But after careful consideration and many different plans, I decided not giving Gehry a full canvas on which to work would have meant compromises that would have lessened the power of the project."
Construction on the 2,000-seat Princess of Wales Theatre began in August 1991, according to the Mirvish Productions website.
Mirvish points out that the theatre, which opened in 1993, was meant to be a temporary venue for big productions like "Miss Saigon."
"This wasn't an easy decision. It has always been my philosophic position that one should never tear down a theatre, even if it isn't fully operational, because a community that is healthy and growing will eventually find its way to use the theatre," he said.
"I lavished an enormous amount of energy, creativity and money to build the Princess of Wales Theatre. It is a beautiful facility of which I am very proud, but it happens to be situated in the middle of the new project's path."
Mirvish says some of the artwork in the theatre by American painter Frank Stella will be saved and incorporated into the new project.
While Mirvish Productions currently operates three other theatres in Toronto, in addition to the Princess of Wales Theatre, David Mirvish said he would be willing to build a new theatre to replace the latter if need be.
"Finally, if we find we need yet another facility, I will be prepared to build a new theatre," Mirvish said.
"I have done that before and I will be willing to do it again."