2013 Villain: David Mirvish
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2013 Villain: David Mirvish

Nominated for: building and tearing down with no sense of proportion.

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. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

villain david mirvish matthew daley

David Mirvish and his father Ed have indisputably been among Toronto’s most important city builders. In addition to establishing Honest Ed’s and the adjacent Mirvish Village, Ed saved the Royal Alexandra Theatre from destruction and kickstarted the development of the entertainment district with the addition of the Princess of Wales. David followed suit, opening his first art gallery at the age of 19, creating one of the city’s finest book shops, and then acquiring the former Canon and Pansonic theatres.

So how does that guy end up on a Villains list?

In July 2012, Mirvish announced he was selling his Bloor Street properties, including Honest Ed’s and the heritage buildings along Markham Street. But that was just a prologue.

In October, he unveiled plans to replace the Princess of Wales and the adjacent heritage warehouses with three towers, each over 80 stories tall, designed by ex-pat Torontonian Frank Gehry. “Getting a Gehry” has become a necessity for any world-class city, and the renovated AGO won’t cut it in his hometown.

The design is still evolving, but they’re striking buildings that will likely have the single biggest impact on our skyline since the CN Tower. Municipal planning staff raised questions about their heights, though, about the loss of the warehouses and the insufficiency of the planned public amenities. The buildings are on the wrong scale, in short—out of proportion with their environment. Mirvish tried to soften the blow, touting a new art gallery and a OCAD campus as benefits that will serve the community more broadly—those of us who can’t afford a suite on floor 75 of Gehrytown.

Ever since, the divisive rhetoric has been flying between those (like columnists Christopher Hume and Marcus Gee) who think Mirvish has finally given Toronto its ticket to World Classville only to be confronted by small-minded provincialism, and those wondering if we oughtn’t to be at least a little concerned about the effects the biggest proposed residential towers we’ve yet seen will have on our infrastructure, local community, and heritage.

On December 18, council decided to create a working group to bridge the divide, rather than outright reject the proposal. The good news is that after the initial wave of rhetoric, things are settling down.

The Mirvishes have done right by Toronto so many times. We’re hoping that this time next year David Mirvish will be back on the hero side of the ledger.