Vaughan praises ‘FrankenTower’ condos, planners disagree

Dennis Hanagan –

If it takes losing four heritage buildings to replace them with a new stock of heritage architecture then that’s a price that has to be paid, says Downtown Councillor Adam Vaughan.

He made his remarks to The Bulletin after a November meeting of Toronto and East York community council which dealt with a controversial proposal from David Mirvish to build three condo towers on King St. W.

Mirvish’s proposal requires the demolition of four heritage-designated buildings on the north side of the street at 266, 276, 284 and 322 King. The proposed condos are the creation of architect Frank Gehry, who recently was quoted in National Post saying there are only a couple of buildings in the city worth saving because he visited them as a kid in Toronto.

“We’re being offered here new heritage. If this project goes ahead as configured … built by one of the great architects of the city we’ll create new heritage where old heritage existed,” Vaughan said.

“If we lose these four buildings that’s a pill we’re going to have to swallow. These warehouses have almost come to the end of their natural life,” he said.

David Mirvish and Frank Gehry address community council.

David Mirvish and Frank Gehry address community council.

“The Mirvishes tried to keep them alive, tried to re-purpose them. They now have a new vision for this part of the city. We can’t keep thinking of every warehouse as the Sistine Chapel,” said Vaughan.

The three condos would be 82, 84 and 86 storeys with a total of 2,709 units and 311 parking spaces. A staff report says the loss of heritage buildings “does not represent an appropriate form of development or good planning.”

At community council Gehry garnered some compliments for his towers. Ward 18 councillor Ana Bailao said “our city needs to look at this as an opportunity.” Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher called it “a beautiful configuration architecturally.”

Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam wasn’t so pleased. She called it “quite brazen” to ask for the demolition of heritage buildings. She complained the project doesn’t offer affordable housing.

She also wanted the project to provide parkland and not money in lieu of. “You have an entire block and you say you can’t get some parkland,” she said to Mirvish and Gehry who addressed the council.

She asked Mirvish why the project has not made changes to height and density which planning staff says is “out of scale with the existing and planned context of the area.”


Gehry’s proposed towers for King St. W. that have been described by opponents as FrankenTowers.

Mirvish replied he doesn’t understand planning staff’s logic for wanting changes. “I can’t understand what impels them to ask for this.”

Asked by Wong-Tam whether he cares about the community’s apprehension regarding the towers Mirvish said, “Yes, I do place a lot of value in what the community has to say. Not everybody wants change. But I can’t achieve what I want without taking risks.”

Mirvish has instigated a pre-hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board that has been set for Jan. 6.

After a lengthy discussion, councillors voted for Vaughan, planning staff, and the Mirvish team to get together and see what can be done to make the project acceptable before it gets to full city council on Dec. 16.

Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc said it’s on the “strength” of the applicant and architect that councillors were “entertaining” the proposal.