Royal Ontario Museum proposes a new 44-storey tower

With the Daniel Libeskind-designed crystalline expansion along Bloor Street well underway, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is moving ahead with its plans to develop a 44-storey, 197-metre condominium and office tower on the current site of the McLaughlin Planetarium at the south end of the ROM. Pending approval from Toronto’s planning department, the tower is scheduled for completion by mid-2008. Developed in conjunction with Graywood Developments and designed by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects, the tower proposal will surely cause much debate with three significant points of contention. Is this building appropriate for an important cultural precinct of the city? Should a tower of this height be built in such proximity to Philosopher’s Walk, an important landscape condition leading into the University of Toronto? Will this development prompt the City of Toronto to develop a coherent policy with respect to residential towers in the downtown core? Currently, the site is not zoned or designed for residential use. The glass tower will feature 39 floors of condominiums on top of a five-storey, 3,150-square-metre podium of facilities for the ROM and other institutions. The residential units are expected to cost more than $1,000 per square foot, nearly double what the current luxury market commands. The entire structure will contain roughly 90 units, ranging from 1,900 to 8,000 square feet. The tower will be used by the ROM for some of its administrative functions as well as for the financing of its programs and operations. The project will also include an improved subway stop and improved visual access to Philosopher’s Walk. Leaving little to chance, Graywood Developments has hired well-known Toronto lawyer Stephen Diamond to direct the ROM tower through City Hall and the Ontario Municipal Board.