A newly updated plan for the Mirvish+Gehry development on King Street West was released by developer Projectcore this week. Originally announced last October to much fanfare [after the story first broke here on UrbanToronto], the mammoth development proposal became the talk of the town. It will see nothing less than the entire remake of part of King Street West between Simcoe and John. Three Gehry towers will replace low-rise brick warehouse office buildings and the Princess of Wales Theatre. The new buildings will contain condos, a new OCADU campus, and gallery space to house David and Audrey Mirvish's significant collection of modern art.
Now, for anyone who believed the original towers didn't go Gehry enough (not unlike some of the criticism he received for the design restraint shown at the AGO), your concerns have been heard. Gehry has doubled down here with a cohesive look of light and cloud glazing across the podium as well as the towers themselves. The three, at 82, 86 and 84 storeys from west to east, now comprise a true triptych, separate but clearly together.
A concern about the project repeatedly raised since its original announcement has been the loss of the heritage warehouse buildings which are proposed to be razed. Gehry's team heard the concerns through the public consultation process, and in considering what heritage means for the city and for the district, they have addressed this in the latest iteration of the plan by way of inspiration rather than replication or retention of the facades. The new design deploys huge wooden posts about the exterior of the new tower podiums, expressively recalling the post-and-beam construction of the disappearing warehouses.
Gehry wants a pedestrian experience along this stretch of King that is second to none in the city, one which teases, engages and delights. Going higher, the nooks and crannies of the post-and-beam inspired base gives way to a light and lithe trio which defy the rigid formality and orthodoxy seen in 99% of Toronto's building stock: this constellation of buildings shouts with the joy expressed in Gehry's best from Bilbao to New York.
Some of those concerned with the loss of the heritage bricks and mortar may not be placated by the new plan, but we understand who Gehry is, what he is capable of accomplishing, and we get where he is going with this. However this story continues to unfold, we at UrbanToronto will be watching very closely.