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2005 11 02
ROM Condo Incinerated
The Globe and Mail's headline this morning states:

"ROM condo project takes heat from critics"

For any of the three hundred or so people who overflowed the U of T lecture hall, a better description would read:

"ROM condo proposal incinerated by locals"

I went to the meeting sharing ROM CEO William Thorsell's enthusiasm for the iconography of the project. On the other hand, I also had doubts about whether or not a private condo tower was appropriate in this location. The vast majority of those who came last night were not so ambivalent: They do not want this tower.

The university's student council had "virtually unanimous opposition" from 41,000 students. Elizabeth Sisam, from the university's planning office, said that the university is, "firmly opposed to the ROM proposal." Area resident groups hated it. No, hate is not a strong enough word. Remember the scene from the original Frankenstein film where the townspeople gather to burn down Frankenstein's castle? They were mild mannered compared to most of the crowd last night. Even taxpayers from as far away as Scarborough came to the meeting to voice their displeasure with the project.

Of the fifty plus people who lined up at the audience microphones for up to two hours only one, an architecture student, was in favour of the proposal.

What drove this animosity? There were three key issues raised. First and perhaps foremost was that this land is a public treasure paid for by Torontonians and to sell it off to a few very wealthy people is wrong and will set a dangerous precedent for similar lands. Another concern, given voice by retired architect Steve Arbor, is that the tower will destroy the carefully planned and conceived sight-lines up University Avenue to the Legislature buildings. Finally, the tower will prevent its institutional neighbours from expanding in the future because it will absorb any permissible local density.

What will happen next? I can't imagine Thorsell and the ROM will continue to pursue the present scheme and I doubt City Council will approve it if they did. After answering many hostile questions last night Thorsell was asked what he is going to do next. His answer: "The first thing I'm going to do is go have a stiff drink."

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 11/02 at 02:33 PM

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