12/16/2013 12:40 EST | Updated 02/15/2014 05:59 EST

Mirvish King West plan needs changes, planner says

The city's chief planner says David Mirvish's plan to bring three massive condo towers to King Street West must be scaled back before she can support the project.

The controversial plan involves demolishing the Princess of Wales Theatre and four heritage warehouse buildings to make way for three high rise condos designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Each of the towers would stand more than 80 storeys and be located on the north side of King Street West just east of John Street.

The plan has raised concerns about neighbourhood congestion, particularly for transit users who already struggle to squeeze aboard the King streetcar during rush hour.

City staff rejected the proposal in its current form, a decision theatre impresario Mirvish has appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The proposal will be up for debate at Monday's council meeting, with staff seeking direction about how the city should respond to the OMB appeals.

David Mirvish spoke about the proposal on Metro Morning Monday and said the buildings offer a rare chance to enhance the street with three Gehry-designed buildings and will not add too much density. The Mirvish family has helped transform the strip from a group of former warehouses into what is now the city's theatre district.

"They are no taller than the bank buildings on the other side of University Avenue," he said. "What has happened with Frank Gehry anywhere he's built is that it's made the places better places."

Mirvish also pointed to other high rise projects under development in the area.

"If we've reached the point of saturation, why are they allowing all these other buildings?"

City chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat acknowledged there are many "special" aspects of the proposal that would make it a favourable addition to King West but said the towers must be scaled back in size before she could support it.

"Tall buildings have a special obligation because their impacts are so profound," said Keesmaat.

"The scale of these buildings is part of the challenge. They're of a scale that means they have many onerous impacts."

"I believe we can have three fabulous Gehry buildings … if the massing and scale of the buildings have become more in line with the public objectives."