Toronto Forma | 308m | 84s | Great Gulf | Gehry Partners

"The meeting resumes at 1:30 p.m., when councillors will vote on the project. Councillor Adam Vaughan is recommending that councillors ignore staff advice and send the Mirvish/Gehry towers to city council’s December meeting without recommendation."


Yes, I got that much. To me that says more about him wanting to control the message than what he wants the message to be.
What?!?!? The media takes things people say out of context to sell headlines? That's awful. You know, you hear about it, but when it actually happens...

It's best in today's society of instant information and constant commentary to not say or write one word.

Woops, I just violated my own rule ;)
I get the impression that Vaughan is trying hard to get this project to happen in at least some form.
I get the impression that Vaughan is trying hard to get this project to happen in at least some form.

I think Vaughan doesn't want to see it go to the OMB because planning staff haven't provided the sufficient rationale for rejecting the application and there is a strong likelihood that the OMB will approve the project as submitted for these reasons. If that happens Vaughan doesn't get to shape the development and of course he will lose out completely on Section 37 funds. Below is the email that Vaughan sent out after the meeting (BBM):

Update on Mirvish King West application
The Mirvish-Gehry proposal for King Street West is headed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

The applicant appealed to the OMB because Planning staff has not completed their review of the impacts and issues raised by this application within the timelines designated by the Planning Act.

At Toronto and East York Community Council yesterday, direction was given to continue discussions with the applicant between now and the next City Council meeting on December 17, 2013. I am deeply concerned that on this case, not only will decisions be made by an unelected body with no Toronto context, it looks like it will be made without a solid analysis.

My office has convened three community meetings and consultations on this application.

The key questions I have asked City Planning staff has not been answered. For over a year I've been asking for three reports from staff:
Analysis of density. How much density can the block hold, how much can the neighbourhood shoulder?
What is the right live work balance for this neighbourhood and how do we stop residential uses and current market from over-whelming all other uses?
What infrastructure changes are required before further intensification takes place?
In addition to the reports listed above, over the past seven years I've asked planning to undertake a number of studies in the neighbourhood that may address these questions. These studies are underway but they are not complete:
Heritage Conservation District study
Built Form Review (area is exempt from tall building guidelines)
transportation study
area has been nominated for piloting a development permit system
Community Services and Facilities study (social service audit)
I have significant concerns about the OMB's ability to base a decision on sound planning with regard for community interests at the best of times.

In order to address this application, city staff need to present their research, facts and planning rationale. Ideally, this information is what City Council uses as a basis for sound decision making. Unfortunately, this application is on its way to the OMB.

In the report presented to Toronto and East York Community Council yesterday, the only reference to density is the simple line that staff "fears" there may be too much density on site. I don't believe that level of analysis will hold up at the OMB.

The lost employment capacity on site is a significant issue. In my opinion the capacity of these warehouses is just as important as the brick and beam structure, building scale and environmental issues related to demolition. There is currently no application to demolish because I applied heritage protections on these warehouses. Demolition is not permitted without additional heritage approvals regardless of what the OMB does.

Finally the infrastructure for this neighbourhood must be updated from both a hard service and a social service perspective to accommodate the last decade's changes. Wider sidewalks, transit corridors, bike lanes, daycare, meeting space, and to a lesser degree water and hydro need to be studied and upgraded to accommodate density already coming to the neighbourhood, let alone what is proposed through this project. The studies and recommendations with respect to these upgrades are not complete.

I will continue to push for this slate of planning and infrastructure studies to be completed, not just to respond to this application, but for the sake of the neighbourhood as well. In the meantime, I believe we should continue to hold discussions with the applicant on this file rather than close the book and head for a fight at the OMB without a thoroughly research planning rationale.
Sad, planning doesn't seem to have much argument for not approving the project at all. Generally an area can be improved by the development of such projects by negotiating with the developer. I don't see why planning is so opposed. They will look quite foolish in front of the OMB if they use the arguments listed above. Again, I can't help but believe there is something political motivating the planning departments position - but I don't know. I certainly hope this project gets approved as proposed as I too feel it offers the city a great deal.
may be the planners haven't done their homework and want to keep this project on hold for some period so they can do their homework and then approve it.
what do u guys think?
I believe the important facades should be carefully disassembled and incorporated into another project nearby OR in other parts of the city such as the distillery district or even Yonge street. For example I could envision the very handsome Anderson building being transplanted to 460 Yonge street. It would have a lot more character than what is being proposed.

Hmmm...I must say this is my favourite idea. It covers the preservation angle as well as the clean slate angle. While I think the buildings would do just as well as landfill, if a compromise has to be made, this is the one I would prefer.
may be the planners haven't done their homework and want to keep this project on hold for some period so they can do their homework and then approve it.
what do u guys think?

I'm not that familiar with the politics/processes of City Hall planning and the OMB but the cynical me thinks maybe they're dragging their heels in the hopes the decision gets taken out of their hands, and thereby avoid the controversy of making a decision on the project. They, and some of the politicians can then, plausibly, say, hey it wasn't our decision. It was that undemocratic body the OMB. The decision was out of our hands. It turns a lose-lose situation (why are you destroying these sacrosanct buildings/the theatre industry/blocking my views vs. why are you stopping development/unique architecture/risk taking) into a neutral position.
They are not going to recommend approval because it is not in compliance with pre-established zoning by-laws. Planners have no decision making power, their job is to evaluate projects compared to the council approved zoning by-laws, and determine whether or not they conform. They then make a recommendation to council based on this. Council is of course free to vote against their by-laws, but planners do not and cannot make decisions, they simply follow the laws laid out by council.
I've been weighing the pros and cons of this project for some time now and finally I am coming on side. The lure of something potentially monumental/iconic here is just too difficult to ignore... well, in fact I think Hume sums it up pretty well. The debate has been a good one though, and an important one (in terms of what we are losing), and we can take some solace in the fact that we would not be rending good urban fabric for just any old development. No, a bar has been established where the pre-existing realm is concerned, and this is somewhat of a victory in and of itself.

As for the POW specifically though, as I sat there recently, amazed by Ramin Karimloo's masterclass in Les Miz, it dawned on me that its loss will be the real sacrifice here. An art gallery can seldom provide the same sort of live, collective experience that a moment in the theatre can... and there is something so very urban in this experience.
I think the project is given a pass at the TEYCC - if they truly wanted to cause it trouble they wouldn't have referred it straight to council with no recommendations. In any case, as it should be - it's always been a political and not a planning decision.

As to approval - I sincerely hope they iron-clad the agreement so that there is absolutely no demolition of any kind unless there is commitment to actually start and complete the building to specifications. To lose those heritage buildings and get a parking lot or something suffering from Cheapening (tm) would be utterly untenable.

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They are not going to recommend approval because it is not in compliance with pre-established zoning by-laws.

Planners frequently recommend the amending of zoning by laws and official plan documents to permit developments that exceed or do not confirm to existing regulations. It's their job to evaluate the proposal while council has the final say. Developments that conform to existing planning regulations do not need to go through the re zoning/amendment process.

Having said that, I believe the planners made the right call in recommending rejection of this proposal, but I also fully support Adam Vaughan's motion to strip the planners recommendations and bring to full council for a vote.

To Alvin's points, Vaughan seems highly competent and I suspect any settlement with M+G will addres those concerns.

I'm also excited about the minimal parking contained in this developments.