* Project includes three condo towers 80 to 85 stories tall
* Massive plan in early stages, needs city approval
(Adds new quotes from Mirvish, city councillor, context)
By Russ Blinch
TORONTO, Oct 1 Toronto's theater district and
the skyline of Canada's biggest city will be transformed by star
architect Frank Gehry as a tribute to the city in which he spent
his childhood under an ambitious plan unveiled on Monday.
The project, the brainchild of Canadian theater impresario
and arts patron David Mirvish, involves erecting three
condominium towers 80 to 85 stories tall.
"These towers can become a symbol of what Toronto can be,"
Mirvish told a news conference. "I'm not building condominiums.
I'm building sculptures for people to live in."
At the base of the buildings will be two six-story podiums
that will provide retail space, seminar rooms and lecture halls.
Two new museums will be constructed, including one to house a
contemporary art collection owned by the Mirvish family.
"We hope to deliver a streetscape that is evocative of old
Toronto," said Gehry, 83, who was born in the city and is known
for his iconic designs, such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao,
Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
Mirvish said he sees the project, which may take many years
to complete, continuing the work of his late father, Ed Mirvish,
who was a driving force in Toronto's arts and theater community.
"This area was transformed 50 years ago after my father
purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre, and this project will
continue the theater's future and transform the neighborhood
again for the next 50 years," Mirvish said.
The project must still be approved by the city, a process
that could take up to two years. The project will likely be
built in stages, and the design could face a number of changes
because of its huge scope and daring architectural designs.
The plan envisions tearing down Mirvish's Princess of Wales
Theatre, where the hit "War Horse" is playing, and some adjacent
heritage buildings to make way for the project, which could
Toronto is in the midst of a condominium building boom, and
the Gehry project's three towers could add to a potential supply
glut. Some analysts have warned a market crash may be coming
because of the frenetic construction pace.
Adam Vaughan, a city council member who has been working
with Mirvish on the project, told the Toronto Star the plan was
a bigger than just erecting a new edifice. "This is about
building a city, not building a building," he said.
(Reporting By Russ Blinch; Editing by Peter Galloway and Philip