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Downtown Toronto’s Gehry project takes next steps

Three developers have refined the plans for their two-tower mixed-use project in downtown Toronto...

Westdale Properties, Frank Gehry-designed, mixed-use project on King Street West, Toronto.

Westdale Properties, Frank Gehry-designed, mixed-use project on King St. West, Toronto.

Three developers have refined the plans for their two-tower mixed-use project in downtown Toronto designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and his team.

The 74-storey east tower and 84-storey west tower to be built on King Street West between the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Princess of Wales Theatre will have approximately 2,000 condominium suites and 150,000 square feet of commercial space. The west tower will be the tallest Gehry-designed building in the world.

“This was a design that started almost seven years ago and we’ve continued to make iterations,” Westdale Properties chief operating officer Mitchell Cohen told RENX.

“We’re now at the final phase, which is going to the committee of adjustment. The refinements are really simple in nature.”

The vision for the Gehry project

Westdale is partners with Great Gulf and Dream Unlimited (DRM-T) on the Gehry project and Cohen had high praise for both of them.

“Frank’s vision is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. With the honour of constructing this vision, there’s a responsibility to do it right the first time.”

The latest changes to the Gehry project: adjust the organization of the towers on the site; enhance the podium by incorporating the façade of the heritage Anderson Building at 284 King St. W. that was built in 1915; and optimize the floor plates of both towers.

“The city made it loud and clear that it didn’t want a typical glass tower that can be found in any city,” said Cohen. “What they wanted was Frank Gehry’s vision to be built here in Toronto, his hometown.”

A new design features a building envelope clad in a variety of energy-efficient materials and includes a textured metal and glass façade Cohen said will make the structure a unique addition to the Toronto skyline while also reflecting it.

“When you take the shape of the buildings, the sun, which changes all of the time, the variety of materials and the different angles of the glass, it’s a really carefully choreographed dance that provides unique views that are never the same.

“It’s a surprise around every corner when you look at that building. The ensemble will become an instant landmark in Toronto.”

Marketing and sales for the Gehry project will start next year, with construction likely to follow in 2023. No timeline has been announced for how long it will take to build the two towers.

OCAD will occupy two floors of east tower

“The most marvelous part of this project is the fact that there are going to be two floors in the east tower dedicated to OCAD University,” said Cohen.

“The intersection of King Street West and Ed Mirvish Way is going to be the new hub for everything arts, culture and theatre.”

The two floors will add to space to OCAD’s unique tabletop-looking primary building, the Sharp Centre for Design at 100 McCaul St., located a few blocks north of the Gehry project site.

The downtown Toronto high-rise condo market has seen a downturn during COVID-19’s reign over the city, but Cohen isn’t concerned about it negatively impacting the Gehry project or any of Westdale’s other developments in the city.

“Like NFL football, it will always come back next year,” he said.

“We are bullish on real estate and love the city of Toronto. We’ll continue to be active in the city of Toronto.”

The development partners

Toronto-based Westdale employs more than 1,500 and has owned, managed and developed real estate across North America for more than 60 years.

Its Canadian portfolio includes close to 7,000 residential units and more than 2.5 million square feet of retail, commercial and industrial spaces.

It owns and manages close to 47,000 residential units in 200 properties in 30 cities, as well as 1.8 million square feet of retail and commercial space, in the United States.

Toronto-headquartered Great Gulf is a low-rise and high-rise developer that was founded in 1975, employs more than 1,500 and has provided more than 80,000 residences in Canada and the U.S.

It has more than 8,000 high-rise units in development or under construction and delivers more than 5,000 single-family homes across North America annually.

Great Gulf has also developed more than 30 million square feet of office, retail, mixed-use and industrial real estate. It has more than five million square feet of commercial properties in development or under construction.

Dream is a developer of office and residential assets in its hometown of Toronto, owns stabilized income-generating assets in both Canada and the U.S., and has an asset management business that includes $8 billion of assets under management across three Toronto Stock Exchange-listed trusts and numerous partnerships.

It also develops land and residential assets in Western Canada for immediate sale.

Los Angeles-based Gehry International Inc. is a full-service architectural firm that was founded in 1962 and has international experience in the design and construction of academic, museum, theatre, performance and commercial projects.

While it has a staff of approximately 160, every project it undertakes is designed personally and directly by 90-year-old Frank Gehry.

Gehry has designed unique buildings around the world, including: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; Dancing House in Prague; Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle; Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

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