2012 Hero: David Mirvish
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2012 Hero: David Mirvish

Nominated for: ambition writ large.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

It’s not enough to say that David Mirvish grew up in the shadow of his father—not when that shadow falls over a “village” in the Annex, a tourist-attraction department store, an entertainment empire, and the Order of Canada. But in 2012, five-and-a-half years after Ed Mirvish passed away, his only son has emerged as the cultural hero Toronto has been waiting for, even if claiming that title requires him to take a wrecking ball to his own property.

Toronto’s arts companies have been having a rough go of it over the last couple years. 2012 brought a few more blows to the industry’s morale: the closure of the Vancouver Playhouse, Dancap’s indefinite hiatus, Michael Healey’s feud with Tarragon Theatre, Ken Gass’s firing by the Factory Theatre Board, and a rift between “newer generations” of artists and the “old farts,” just to name a few. At the end of 2012, what we really needed was a vote of confidence: some confirmation that the constant uphill battle is worth the effort.

Who knew it would come from the leader of Canada’s largest commercial theatre company? This fall, Mirvish announced both the Off-Mirvish Series—a groundbreaking initiative to highlight the city’s best independent productions—and a proposed development project on King West with architect Frank Gehry. The latter is a bold new vision that would demolish the Princess of Wales Theatre and replace it with three 80-ish storey condo buildings, with an art museum and OCAD University facility at street level.

In doing these things, Mirvish is revamping Toronto culture, from the darkest underground theatres to the most luxurious penthouses. He’s probably the only person in the city who can ably straddle those two worlds.

Sure, people balked at the idea of replacing a theatre less than 20 years old with three super condo towers. But many of the city’s major commenters (including the Grid‘s Edward Keenan, the Globe and Mail‘s Marcus Gee and J. Kelly Nestruck, the National Post‘s Kelly McParland, Toronto Life‘s Sarah Fulford, and the Star‘s Christopher Hume) have all lauded the project as a much-needed push to get Toronto out of its comfort zone. We agree. And now that Terminus, the opener of the Off-Mirvish Series, is regarded as the best-reviewed show of the year, it can truly be said: Mirvish hasn’t steered us wrong yet.

See the other nominees in the Cityscape category:

Adaptation of Maple Leaf Gardens, for giving our history new life.  

Andy Byford, for bringing customer-focused change to the TTC.  

Ontario Place Revitalization Plans, for preserving and renewing where each are needed.  

Astral Info Pillar Hackers, for taking Toronto’s sidewalks back.  

The Ryerson Image Centre, for living up to the university’s ambitions.  

Cast Your Ballot