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Old September 21st, 2005, 03:17 PM   #1
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BIG BIRD, little bird - - Another 'CRANE'

... only this crane is whooping it up beside the Hummingbird.

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

A swooping, sculptural 50-storey glass tower designed by architect Daniel Libeskind will top the Hummingbird Centre by the end of the decade if city council gives the go-ahead next week for the start of redevelopment negotiations for the city-owned site.

Yesterday, the city's policy and finance committee agreed unanimously to have its staff and Hummingbird officials enter into talks with developers Castlepoint Realty Partners Ltd. to strike an umbrella agreement that will make Mr. Libeskind's vision a reality.

The negotiations are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The committee also supported a motion by Councillor Pam McConnell calling for the 3,200-seat Hummingbird -- which opened as the O'Keefe Centre in 1960 -- to be named a designated heritage site under Ontario's new Heritage Act.

Mr. Libeskind's concept and the heritage designation are part of an ambitious, expensive plan to protect the Hummingbird from at worst the wrecking ball, and at least steady deterioration.

The plan aims to simultaneously reinvent the site as a multi-use facility loosely called CityCentre.

Designed by the pioneering British-born Canadian modernist Peter Dickinson, the Hummingbird has been primarily a performing arts venue since its inception.

Its future was thrown into doubt in 2001 when its two long-time anchor tenants, the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada, announced that effective mid-2006 they would be moving to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, currently under construction at Queen Street West and University Avenue.

Included in Mr. Libeskind's slender 50-storey tower, to be built on the southwest corner of the Hummingbird site in such a way so as not to cast a shadow on nearby Berczy Park, will be 41 floors containing 300 condominiums, plus 40 affordable-housing units on three storeys.

The affordable housing element will be managed by Artscape, a non-profit organization specializing in real-estate development for Toronto's arts communities.

Underpinning the tower and running north along Yonge Street to Front Street East will be a 100,000-square-foot ArtsLab, topped by an extensive garden.

This space, also to be designed by Mr. Libeskind, will be a sort of interactive multicultural centre, museum and exhibition hall.

About a dozen individuals and representatives of various organizations spoke in favour of the scheme yesterday at city hall. Mr. Libeskind, 59, was originally scheduled to appear but did not because he is recovering from minor surgery in New York.

It is hoped that construction of the tower and ArtsLab can start in the spring of 2007. But the realization of that goal hinges on whether Hummingbird CEO Dan Brambilla can raise at least $56-million between now and November of next year, the confirmation date Castlepoint says it needs to ensure a spring construction start.

Mr. Brambilla is hoping to get that money in one of two ways: The first involves using the $4-million the Hummingbird has in reserves. This, in addition to the $15-million Castlepoint has agreed to pay for the land parcel needed for the 50-storey tower as leverage for investments of $15-million each from the federal and provincial governments and private donors. Another $15-million or more would come from naming rights (Toronto-based software company Hummingbird Ltd. sees its naming sponsorship expire in 2006).

The second approach involves finding a deep-pocketed corporation (or corporations) "who would pick up the whole thing," Mr. Brambilla said. "And yes, I am looking for a significant corporate presence on the site for which there would be enhanced naming rights opportunities." Meanwhile, he said he is close to getting a new, so-far undisclosed anchor tenant for the Hummingbird in 2006 and hopes he can make an announcement by the end of November.

If Mr. Libeskind's design is realized, he will stand as the undisputed architectural titan of Toronto's much-vaunted cultural renaissance. His controversial revamp of the Royal Ontario Museum, due to be finished next year, has already altered Torontonians' perceptions of the landmark Bloor Street-Queen's Park area.
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Old September 21st, 2005, 03:28 PM   #2
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WOW. The long awaited render is finally revealed.. and it does look like a seal.
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Old September 21st, 2005, 03:41 PM   #3
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Elegant boot or tall bird?
Sleek 49-storey tower could rise alongside Hummingbird


Some will see it as an elegant boot, the shape of a map of Italy, looming on Toronto's skyline and slouching toward the city's soon-to-be-reborn waterfront. For others, it will suggest a tall bird made of glass and steel.

Whatever you call it, Daniel Libeskind has unveiled a sleek new 49-storey tower set to rise alongside the Hummingbird Centre. Yesterday the plan was presented to the policy and finance committee of Toronto City Council, which conditionally recommended its approval.

But what, confused citizens might well wonder, became of the other proposed towers unveiled earlier with fanfare?

Take One: In early 2003, Dan Brambilla, CEO of the Hummingbird, unveiled a plan designed by Toronto architect Thomas Payne, which added wings and appendages to the 45-year-old performing arts centre.

Take Two: By July 2004, that plan was history, and city council was asked to approve a slender 50-storey residential tower designed by the Toronto architectural firm HOK.

Take Three: the Libeskind version, a poetic, swooping steel-and-glass icon.

"We incorporated elements of the previous two designs," says Alfredo Romano, CEO of the Hummingbird's development partner, Castlepoint Realty, "but each of them had certain problems and limitations. But it took Libeskind, one of the world's greatest architects, to give this landmark site the kind of unique quality it needs."

In a statement from his New York office, Libeskind � who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and did the master plan for the redevelopment of the World Trade Centre in New York � said: "This building is a gateway at the crossroads of the city, linking the financial district to the north, the waterfront to the south and the St. Lawrence neighbourhood to the east."

Brambilla's plan calls for the tower to complement a renewed arts centre, which he dubs City Centre, retaining the theatre but adding an ambitious and diverse series of cultural programs, including an interactive arts lab, a tourist-information service and a dinner-theatre video cabaret.

Libeskind's design includes a seven-storey box at the base of the tower that extends toward the original building on the Yonge St. side. The seven storeys at the base of the tower would be devoted to Brambilla's cultural program. The Yonge St. box also features a huge, rounded glass window and space for the public to gather, as well as a caf�.

The project design includes a second horizontal flank, on the south side of the property, along the Esplanade, which would mask the Hummingbird's unsightly fly tower and provide a garden-like setting for those looking either up or down at it.

There's a catch. The cost of Brambilla's City Centre extravaganza is $71 million, of which $15 million would be contributed by Castlepoint in exchange for the right to build the tower, leaving $56 million that would have to be raised. And the city wants to ensure that if his business plan fails, that box won't turn into a shopping mall.

Yesterday the finance committee suggested there would be two possible ways of going ahead with Libeskind's tower. Plan A: If Brambilla can raise the money for City Centre, proceed with the whole project. If not, build the tower for now, and leave City Centre for later.

"What makes the project unique is the combination of its spectacular location and its visionary program," says Yama Karim, project architect and a senior associate at Libeskind's firm. "This is not just another tower conceived with the idea of maximizing square footage and revenue. It's a landmark project intended to enrich the city and contribute to its liveliness, creating a place where cultural activities and residential facilities have been blended."

Romano, the developer, said at yesterday's city hall meeting that the proposal reflects a sense of respect for both Peter Dickinson's original milestone building and for the neighbourhood in which it is situated.

Comparing his proposal to Cesar Pelli's Museum Tower atop the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Romano said: "There are a number of firsts with this project, including a fully integrated affordable housing component consisting of 40 rental units."
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Old September 24th, 2005, 05:52 PM   #4
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looks great
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Old September 26th, 2005, 05:32 AM   #5
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Any idea if the top levels are mechanical or actual rentable space? It would be pretty cool to have a near horizontal glass ceiling, thought I guess that might be a problem with hail.
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