The Mirvish kid is late for the party.

David Mirvish, son of Toronto icon the late ‘Honest Ed’ Mirvish has a new vision. With his father laid to rest, the younger Mirvish seems to have almost free rein with the family’s entertainment and retailing empire. He is cutting back on the family theatre holdings to enter new entrepreneurial heights as a condominium developer.

It hardly seems to matter that the younger Mirvish has no background or experience in the condo field as he has an architect and a development manager to help him replace the Princess of Wales Theatre with three condo towers up to 80-stories in height. Nobody is expected to miss the theatre that has looked temporary since it was opened in 1993 for a production of Miss Saigon. The facts are that Toronto has overbuilt the number of 2000-seat theatres it needs or wants, as it has also overbuilt condominiums in the market.

It was Ed Mirvish’s wife Anne who encouraged him to get into the entertainment business and buy the old Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street. He paid $250,000 for the theatre in 1962 and then spent far more refurbishing it over the following year. It was back in business as a legitimate theatre in 1963. Part of Ed Mirvish’s genius was that he bought up some of the derelict warehouses west of the theatre on King Street and opened a series of restaurants to entice people back to that part of the city. The restaurants are long gone but today King Street, west from University Avenue, constitutes one of the most vibrant parts of the city as the entertainment district.

The people most upset with young Mirvish’s condominium caper are the bar and restaurant owners in the area. These people have enjoyed the fat years of having two large and active theatres in the area helping to draw customers for them. Having just 1500 or so new condominium dwellers in the neighbourhood will never replace the ever changing traffic the area previously drew.

But the real tragedy is that a condominium development could drive a stake into the heart of the Mirvish success in Toronto. The condo market in Toronto has already started to show serious signs of decline and the Mirvish vision could just ride that slippery slope to oblivion. To give up on the Princess of Wales Theatre for a pig in the poke such as condos is not something that ‘Honest Ed’ would have tried.

If David Mirvish would like a freebie he should consider refurbishing the Princess of Wales to create three smaller theatres in the 700-seat range and lower his sights from big hit musicals to reviving more intimate and more intellectually stimulating off-Broadway type productions. Oh well, for what it is worth.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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