The fate of the McLaughlin Planetarium looks to be sealed as the University of Toronto has announced plans to create a cultural complex at 90 Queen's Park Crescent. The planetarium, which closed in 1995, is slated for demolition to make way for a 250-seat performance hall and more. The hall will be used by the University's Faculty of Music, the Department of History, the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Institute of Islamic Studies. The complex will also include a gallery space for a new Jewish Museum of Canada as well as a research arm for the Centre for Jewish Studies. No architect is attached to the project yet.
Founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Isadore Sharp and his wife Rosalie Wise Sharp have begun the fundraising process and hope to be the first of five to seven founding families contributing funding to the Jewish Museum of Canada portion of the project. The museum will be privately operated by a charitable foundation and costs of constructing the new facilities will be split between the university and the museum.
The new development will bring enhancements to the immediate area in the form of a new plaza at Museum station and improved connections between Philosopher's Walk, Queen's Park and U of T.
The McLaughlin planetarium opened in 1968 and does not have heritage designation. The building was a source of controversy when the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), then its owner, proposed a condominium to replace the defunct planetarium as part of its expansion. The plans fell through and U of T jumped in and bought the site, leasing it to the ROM for office space and storage use. The building has since sat largely underutilized and forgotten.
Though the planetarium will have to be demolished, there may be plans to also create a theatre "providing a planetarium experience" that will be located on the site. The theatre would be operated by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and welcome students of all ages.
Though current zoning for the site dictates a height limit of 23 metres, the St. George Campus Master Plan calls for an 81 metre maximum height, significantly opening up development opportunities that may need to be explored for this development.
As the plans come together, community consultations will be held, which should result in a variety of interesting views and ideas for this unique and valuable plot of land.
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