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unimaginative2

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ROM starts over with plans for 90 Queen's Park
Promises to consult with community

UNNATI GANDHI

October 19, 2007

The Royal Ontario Museum is gingerly stepping forward with renewed hopes of redeveloping the site of the old planetarium, this time in partnership with a prominent hotelier and an approach that calls for community consultation ahead of design announcements.

The museum's first endeavour, a 46-storey condominium tower, was withdrawn two years ago after meeting fiery opposition from neighbours, which included the faculties of law and music at the University of Toronto.

"The ROM is taking a from-the-ground-up approach to the development of 90 Queen's Park," director and CEO William Thorsell said in a statement yesterday.

Museum spokesman Francisco Alvarez said Mr. Thorsell was not available to comment further on the museum's plans. He did say, however, that the first meeting with the public, held on Wednesday, was "poorly attended."

Property developer and Windsor Arms Hotel owner George Friedmann has teamed up with the ROM to come up with a project that pleases both the museum and its neighbours.

"There is no preset agenda going in," he said. "It's basically just listening to what people want, what people don't want, what they'd like to see, how they'd like to see it."

One possibility for the site, "subject to things coming out of the woodwork ... is a substantial museum. It just makes sense because of where it is."

When asked whether plans for a hotel were in the works, Mr. Friedmann said, "It's a very good possibility, but there's certainly no agreement on it." He confirmed the building would be zoned for mixed use.

The layered-glass luxury tower initially proposed for the site in 2005 was also slated for mixed use. Dubbed ROM South, the condo was supposed to sit atop a five-storey "podium" that would provide 35,000 square feet of office, storage and curatorial space for the museum. It also would have funnelled $20-million into the $270-million Renaissance ROM project that Mr. Thorsell has spearheaded.

But the tower was scrapped after fierce resistance from nearby residents, city councillors and the University of Toronto, and Mr. Thorsell said the ROM would seek out donations to fill the funding gap. As of May, the museum announced it had raised $262-million for the Renaissance ROM project.

Mimi Fullerton, vice-chair of the Annex Residents' Association board, said yesterday she hadn't been persuaded by the latest round of redevelopment talks.

"I have a question mark about the ROM's sincerity and its approach to the public consultation process," she said.

"You cannot say that you're doing a public consultation process and then announce clearly that you've got to get your money out of the site to cover off your debts, and I believe that's what's happening."

City Councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity Spadina) said he had sat down with Mr. Thorsell and talked about the public's concerns, including the idea of making public land private. Opposition last time also stemmed from the fact that the tower did not fit in architecturally with the surrounding buildings.

"I asked them to start with a blank slate, to look at the elements that they want to bring to the table and see if there's a way of configuring them that engages people, rather than creates opposition," Mr. Vaughan said, adding he hopes the museum takes the public consultations to heart.
 

3Dementia

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Yeah... second chance!!!

Here's an idea for a "consultation"... call D. Libeskind. His last (first?) condo project sold out in a weekend.

Maybe he can come up something for this site...

--

If not, I look forward to my first paid commission... I never throw anything out.

 

3Dementia

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Hey... given this sketch ^^ is 3 years old... I just realized where Bazis' stegasaurus crown for 1 Bloor East came from... I'm gonna sue (and settle for 900 sq feet @ level 53).
 

Mongo

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Given the vociferous response to the previous condo proposal, I do not see a high-rise being built on this site. But a mid-rise building with cultural elements would be just fine in my opinion. Perhaps a museum expansion in the podium, with a mid-rise high-end hotel (as suggested in the article) above, all designed to fit with the current neighbourhood?

Bill
 

MetroMan

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I was at the opposition meeting for the original tower and I will not support this new proposal if it does not include the south terrace building.

I like the idea of using the planetarium site's ground and sub-ground space for a museum expansion and a mid-rise no taller than twice the height of the Crystal as a hotel component.

The south terrace curatorial building should be demolished and the resulting space included as the base of any project for this side of the ROM. All curatorial functions should be moved to the tower portion to free up space at the ROM for publicly accessible exhibition galleries.

I too am of the mind that Daniel Libeskind should be offered to design this wing in the sheer name of consistency.

Funny how – as a member – I have to hear about this through UT. Did any members get any notice of a community meeting?
 

Coruscanti Cognoscente

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Yeah... second chance!!!

Here's an idea for a "consultation"... call D. Libeskind. His last (first?) condo project sold out in a weekend.

Maybe he can come up something for this site...

--

If not, I look forward to my first paid commission... I never throw anything out.

I generally wouldn't support a condo, but I really like this render!
 

Tewder

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I think that planning to develop this site now is very premature and very short-sighted. The ROM will be foregoing any major future expansion by taking the one last adjacent plot of any significance. This is a case of short-term gain vs long-term planning, and I think this is a shame given the importance of the ROM. Several generations have added their mark to this museum, including our own with Libeskind's crystal. Lets leave the planetarium site for another generation to come. In the meantime there are condos and boutique hotels-a plenty all over for those who want them.
 

Urban Shocker

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Though the ROM once housed their Sigmund Samuel Collection in a building designed for it just north of College Street, I would prefer to see the Planetarium land reserved exclusively for a future expansion the Museum.
 

wyliepoon

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Post

Link to article

Condos on ROM property 'unacceptable,' critics say
New fight over site of former planetarium

Zosia Bielski
National Post

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Annex residents are girding for a fresh fight amid suggestions the Royal Ontario Museum is considering condominiums as part of a new public-private development envisioned for its former Mc-Laughlin Planetarium site.

"This is privatizing public realm space. It's unacceptable," said Mimi Fullerton, vice-chairwoman of the Annex Residents' Association board, who helped lead the charge against a 46-storey condo development proposed for the site two years ago.

On Thursday, museum spokesman Francisco Alvarez indicated condos are being considered as part of a mixed-use plan for the ROM's property at 90 Queen's Park. Yesterday, Mr. Alvarez said neither ROM chief William Thorsell nor anyone else at the museum would comment further on the matter.

Ms. Fullerton accused Mr. Thorsell of once again looking to co-opt public space for condos to pay for cost overruns associated with the "Libeskind extravaganza." She said she is worried the museum will have no choice but to go vertical in the small space.

"I'm deeply disappointed. William Thorsell made many public statements that he heard the message. Clearly he hasn't."

This time, the museum has partnered with Windsor Arms Hotel owner George Friedmann and is holding consultations with neighbours. But Ms. Fullerton said offering "input on a high-rise proposal" is not good enough.

In 2005, she and hundreds of Torontonians blasted the ROM for a development they said was "ugly" and "dramatically out of proportion" with surrounding architecture. Among them were residents, city councillors and the faculties of law and music at the University of Toronto, where officials worried about the obstruction of Philosopher's Walk.

"Obviously, we don't have a right to build this. If the community and the city are absolutely opposed, it won't get built," Mr. Thorsell said at the time.

"We don't know what shape or form the building might take," Mr. Alvarez said on Thursday. "There's no design. There's no architect yet.... We're just starting the process. We're just trying to determine what everyone's needs are."

City council would have to approve rezoning to permit residential as well as institutional uses on the site, a point activists are stressing.

"It just is not a residential precinct. We would want to severely evaluate whatever

the proposal is for anything that is not in keeping with the existing zoning, which is institutional," said Robert Brown, an Annex Residents' Association board member who sits on a city committee studying the future of Bloor Street.

Designed by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects, the 2005 project was to see its top 40 floors reserved for condos with an average price of $3-million. The project would have fed $20-million to the ROM, which is now less than $8-million short of its $270-million budget for its revitalization.

The museum first issued its call to redevelop the planetarium site in 2004, nine years after the facility was closed.

Ms. Fullerton cited New York City's Pierpont Morgan Library as a shining example of responsible re-development of a cultural institution. There, architects built several storeys underground to accommodate the stacks and preserve a historical front. She also lauded the Gardiner Museum, directly across the street from the disputed ROM site, calling it a "jewel box of a building" that fits in with the area.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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From the Globe:

BUILDING PROPOSALS: 90 QUEEN'S PARK CRES.
Condo towers or academe powers?

JOHN LORINC

Special to The Globe and Mail

October 27, 2007

When the University of Toronto's faculty of law recently unveiled designs for a major expansion, some alumni noticed an intriguing detail in one of the three plans.

The law school, situated on Queen's Park Crescent, needs new office, library and teaching space. In one model, a jagged addition envelopes the law school's current digs as well as the faculty of music, directly to the north. "Then," according to Saucier & Perrotte's write-up, "turning toward the current planetarium site, it ends poetically, suggesting an elegant form to what may in the future become part of the [Royal Ontario Museum] expansion."

While the planetarium hovers at the periphery of the law faculty's plans, the site is the focal point of the ROM's second bid to fill an $8-million hole created by overruns from the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

Two neighbouring development schemes, two diverging storylines. The law school's high-concept project will sail ahead with nothing but praise. The ROM's venture, at 90 Queen's Park Cres., is already generating nothing but flak.

Last week, ROM chief executive officer William Thorsell announced that the museum will be trying again to assemble a development proposal for the planetarium site. The first one, a 40-storey condo tower, was shot down in 2005. ROM officials say that nothing has been decided about form or height.

Still, the museum's partner is George Friedmann, the owner of the Windsor Arms Hotel. He says he is interested in a mixed-use building that may include a museum. ROM officials say they intend to engage the museum's neighbours in an open-ended consultation.

Local councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity-Spadina) says the planetarium site is not the ROM's to sell if the intention is merely to solve an economic problem. "We're not saying no," he says, but adds that the museum must go through a serious planning process to justify any kind of development deal. "I don't have confidence that that's what they want to do."

Former Toronto chief planner Paul Bedford also predicts that Mr. Thorsell will hit the same barrier that defeated him before. The planetarium site is designated "institutional" in the City of Toronto's official plan. As such, its status is identical to that of the land that houses U of T, the downtown hospitals, Nathan Phillips Square and Queen's Park.

"There's a purpose for institutional designation in the official plan," Mr. Bedford said this week, noting that residential uses do not have a place on institutional land because it would allow high-rises to go up almost anywhere downtown.

Area residents say their primary concern is the privatization of public space.

"Where is the line in the sand?" wonders Mimi Fullerton, a member of the Annex Residents' Association. "This is a floodgate."

Is it? Mr. Bedford points to the case of St. Michael's College, which is moving ahead with the sale of a tract of land on Bay Street to a high-rise condo developer. In that case, he says the high-rises fit naturally into Bay's streetscape.

Perhaps a more relevant comparison is the College Street wing of Toronto General Hospital. In the late 1990s, developers were circling that historic building, which TGH no longer needed. But those plans disappeared after former U of T president John Evans proposed transforming the wing into a medical research incubator. That idea evolved into the MaRS Centre, which attracted tens of millions in public and private funding and now symbolizes a new sort of institution on the axis of University Avenue formerly given over to hospitals, academia and governmental buildings.

Observers such as Ms. Fullerton say the best-case scenario for the planetarium site must involve U of T, which is continually scrambling for space on the St. George campus. The music faculty also has cramped quarters and there's a chronic shortage of student housing.

Given that the ROM was once a research branch of the university, it makes sense for U of T to further consolidate its land holdings south of Bloor, which include property leased to the Colonnade and McKinsey & Co.

But that scenario, which ensures that 90 Queen's Park remains in the public realm, can play out only if U of T is willing to buy the planetarium from the ROM.

"That would be a better outcome," says Mr. Vaughan.

When Mr. Thorsell announced the new set of consultations last week, he included U of T as one of the participants in the planning process. For its part, U of T seems to be playing its cards close to the vest. Provost Vivek Goel did not respond to requests for an interview.

AoD
 

MetroMan

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Given that the ROM was once a research branch of the university, it makes sense for U of T to further consolidate its land holdings south of Bloor, which include property leased to the Colonnade and McKinsey & Co.

But that scenario, which ensures that 90 Queen's Park remains in the public realm, can play out only if U of T is willing to buy the planetarium from the ROM.
Hey, that would be a perfect solution. The ROM would get its money, the land would remain institutional and UofT could finally get rid of the horrid brick building behind the Planetarium and rebuild it (better, one would hope) fronting on to Queen's Park.
 

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