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Old Posted Sep 9, 2005, 1:33 PM
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http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...acodalogin=yes

ROM makes room for $3M condos

Plans to demolish planetarium 46-storey project called ROM South

VANESSA LU
CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF

The Royal Ontario Museum wants to demolish the defunct McLaughlin Planetarium and replace it with a 46-storey tower that will house multi-million-dollar condos.

An employee of Graywood Developments Ltd., which has partnered with the ROM to develop the property, told the Star the tower would have four condominium units per floor, each about 3,000 square feet.

The estimated asking price would be around $3 million, with the penthouse possibly costing as much as $50 million. Forty floors would be condos.

The proposal will likely be opposed by at least two residents' groups, who say it is too big.

But William Thorsell, director and CEO of the ROM, said it means the museum can pay for the next phase of its Renaissance ROM project, in which the museum is being renovated and expanded to give the public access to more of its collections.

"We're getting substantial revenue out of this," he said yesterday.

Earlier yesterday the ROM applied to have the property rezoned to permit the development. The area is now zoned institutional and the ROM has requested it be changed to institutional/residential.

According to the ROM's website, the first five floors of the building would provide offices, storage and a link to the museum's main building.

Located at 90 Queen's Park and called ROM South, the plan also calls for a public plaza and improved subway access on the site that now houses the planetarium, long used as a storage site by the museum. It will include a pedestrian overpass connecting Queen's Park and Philosopher's Walk.

"Hopefully we'll get a yes for this and it will be great," Thorsell said.

But Councillor Olivia Chow, who represents the area, said the tower faces major obstacles.

"It's about the same height as the Toronto-Dominion Centre. It is much higher than anything around it," Chow said yesterday.

Residents who viewed the proposal at a meeting this week "were quite taken aback by the size," said Chow (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina).

Meanwhile, Councillor Kyle Rae, who represents the ward to the east, called the project "an interesting proposition."

"The ROM has shown they're taking leadership on urban design with their new expansion on the north," Rae said. "They've got a site to the south that's a perfect location for a high-end condo very similar to what the Museum of Modern Art has done in New York City, where there's a condo right beside it."

But ratepayers groups aren't so sure.

Sue Dexter of the Harbord Village Residents' Association said there is "a lot of opposition in the community."

"This is selling off assets to afford things we can't afford to do," Dexter said. Instead, the ROM should wait until it has the money, she said.

David Powell, president of the Huron-Sussex Residents' Organization, said it doesn't fit into the neighbourhood.

"It's just over the top, it's too big, it's so tall."

with files from paul moloney and Dana Brown
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