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Frank Gehry condos amended to keep heritage buildings

The Princess of Wales Theatre and three other heritage buildings will remain an iconic part of a new plan for the Frank Gehry condo towers in downtown Toronto.

The proposal was revealed on Tuesday and shows two large condo towers with a pedestrian walkway and vehicle traffic between the two buildings.

The original proposal from Gehry and David Mirvish, head of Mirvish Productions and son of the late “Honest” Ed Mirvish, was rejected by city council in December and heavily criticized by the public. The plan would have seen the construction of three towers, each 80 storeys, and razing the Princess of Wales Theatre and the surrounding heritage buildings.

“There were some very serious concerns with the scale of the project, that it represented too much development on one site,” Jennifer Keesmaat, Toront’s chief city planner told CityNews. “Tremendous concern about the wiping out of the heritage buildings that existed on the site.”

She says there was also concern over the site’s cultural uses being replaced by retail and commercial sites.

“This is a unique part of the city where we have two theatres and really important creative knowledge based jobs – we wanted to retain that,” Kessmaat said. “We recognize that has a real asset that needed to be respected.”

Mirvish said the new plan is a very different concept.

“The original plan was three buildings but each one different from each other, whereas here it’s two buildings that talk to each other across a square,” he explained. “These buildings have a personality that, I think, talks about who we are at this moment.”

He said the buildings will be an iconic symbol of the city, as its shape appears to change from different angles around the city.

“If you look north-south there’s a gap but if you look along King Street, the buildings begin to merge,” Mirvish said. “I think they’re kind of cool but at the same time they’re very proper and upright in an interesting way and dignified.”

One of the two towers will stand 92 storeys and will have glass down the middle which Mirvish describes as a “waterfall of glass.”

The new design will have to be brought before city council for approval.

With files from Erin Criger