As BWW previously reported, David Mirvish and Frank Gehry are planning a "culture and condo" complex in Toronto's Entertainment District that would involve demolishing The Princess of Wales theatre. Mirvish wrote the following letter to the media in response to this news, addressing his and Gehry's new project, their decision to tear down The Princess of Wales Theatre, and their plans to continue Ed Mirvish's legacy. Read below!
"Dear Friends in the Media,
Tomorrow I will announce an important new project that will build on the legacy that my father began when he purchased and restored the Royal Alexandra Theatre five decades ago. As a valued member of the media, I am very proud to share these plans with you, not in the form of the traditional media release but as a letter, because this project is of a special personal interest to me and I would like to treat it differently.
In 1963, King Street West was a wasteland of derelict industrial buildings and underused railway yards. In the middle of this was the beaux-arts jewel that is the Royal Alex. The first thing my father did was to try and create a hospitable neighbourhood for the theatre. He bought many of The Warehouses and converted them into restaurants, which he felt complemented the theatregoing experience.
That was the beginning of what has now become the preeminent arts and cultural neighbourhood in the country.
The Royal Alex is still thriving, still the Grande Dame of the area’s bustling activity. Our other buildings, the former warehouses and foundries to the west of the theatre, are now offices and businesses. The neighbourhood has grown up, just as Toronto has; and I believe after almost 50 years of custodianship of these two blocks of urban space, now is the time to take a bold step into the future while preserving the flavour and strengths of our heritage.
Towards this end I am collaborating with the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, who grew up in this neighbourhood and whose only other project in his hometown is the beautiful redesign of the Art Gallery of Ontario (2008).
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.
The design will create a new profile for the arts and entertainment district at the streetscape and in the skyline, add significantly to the John Street Cultural Corridor, and provide new and enhanced public spaces. The conceptual design, which will continue to evolve, will create a humane and habitable streetscape with wide sidewalks, on which Canada’s Walk of Fame will be preserved and maintained.
The three iconic residential towers, each with a different form, façade and use of materials, will be: a slender and highly articulated tower beside the Royal Alex; and on the block bordered by King, Pearl, Ed Mirvish Way and John Street, a stacked, slatted L-shaped tower and a translucent tri-winged tower. These towers are so distinct, so striking, that I think of them as sculptures by one of the greatest artists of his generation.
The new 60,000-square-foot Mirvish Collection gallery will be a destination for viewing contemporary abstract art. The Mirvish Collection, which my wife and I have built over 50 years, comprises works by leading artists, including Jack Bush, Anthony Caro, HeLen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, David Smith and Frank Stella. The nonprofit Mirvish Collection will be free, open to the public and will present artist-focused exhibitions. The gallery will also be available to other institutions and to travelling art shows.
This project will not happen immediately. It will be completed in phases. The first phase will be The Warehouse building that currently stands at King Street and Ed Mirvish Way. The second and third phases will be the group of buildings on the block bordered by King, Pearl, Ed Mirvish Way and John Street. We anticipate it will be three to seven years before the entire project is completed.