CN Tower Could Be Torn Down Because Of High Land Prices: Designer

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Toronto’s CN Tower could be torn down and replaced with something even taller because of the city’s soaring real estate prices, says an engineer who worked for the company that designed the iconic structure.

The CN Tower “could rival the pyramids of Egypt for longevity, but in today’s reality, it will be demolished when it is more profitable to replace it,” wrote Patrick Quinn in a comment piece in the Toronto Star.

“With land prices escalating in Toronto at warp speed, that will be sooner than we might think.”

cn tower
The CN Tower seen next to a condo complex in downtown Toronto. The area around the tower is increasingly becoming a residential neighbourhood. (Photo: Alan Copson via Getty Images)

Quinn, the co-founder of structural engineering firm Quinn Dressel, headed up structural engineering at Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden when that architectural firm co-designed the CN Tower in the late 1960s.

Though the tower is a landmark and an “extraordinary money maker,” the land it sits on could be generating far more money, Quinn wrote. He suggested a Burj Khalifa-type super-tall skyscraper could one day replace the tower.

Uptown condos in Toronto are realizing in excess of $1,000 a square foot, and the one percenters don’t blink at paying $50 million for an apartment that is used for part of the year. A 150-storey building, such as the Burj Khalifa, which cost almost $2 billion to build and is economically viable, is illustrative of the possibilities for the site on which the CN Tower sits.

burj khalifa
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai has overtaken the CN Tower as the tallest freestanding structure in the world. Something like it could replace the CN Tower eventually, structural engineer Patrick Quinn says. (Photo: Siegfried Layda via Getty Images)

According to Canada Lands Company Ltd. (CLCL), the CN Tower’s owner, the structure is indeed a money-maker: It earned $72 million in revenue for the 2014-2015 year, up by $6.6 million from a year earlier.

"There are no considerations of any type to sell or redevelop Canada’s National Tower," a spokesperson told HuffPost Canada. "In fact we continue to consider ways of enhancing the precinct as evidenced by the recent opening of the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada on our land."

In its public statements, the company has indicated it plans to go on owning and operating the tower for some time.

The current operating strategy is to position and market the Tower as a major entertainment complex, a “vertical theme park” that offers an adventure at every level and delivers a premium experience for guests, while also ensuring that all of its financial targets are met.

The CN Tower opened in June, 1976, under the ownership of CN Rail. But ownership was shifted to CLCL, a Crown corporation, in 1995 when the railroad was privatized. CLCL’s mandate is to buy “surplus” property from the federal government at market prices and either run that property or sell it on to private buyers.

For three decades the CN Tower held the title of world’s tallest freestanding structure, but the tower lost that distinction to the Burj Khalifa, earlier known as the Burj Dubai.

The tower has also garnered recognition from around the world that would make it politically difficult to approve its removal. Among other things, it has been named one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world, along with the Golden Gate Bridge, the Panama Canal and the Channel Tunnel.

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