Frank Gehry and the development team celebrate the groundbreaking of the future Landmark building, Forma
After more than a decade of dreaming and planning, the ceremonial start of construction of Forma was today marked in what was likely one of the most anticipated groundbreaking events in recent memory. Closing Ed Mirvish Road to traffic in the morning, the event was attended by about a hundred people, including the extended project team from Great Gulf, Dream Unlimited, and Westdale Properties, and was highlighted by a speech from Frank Gehry himself, in front of the shovels as it was pushed to the ceremonial grounds to officially announce the start of the historic project.
First to take the stage was Usma Malik, councilor for Ward 10 in Toronto, Spadina-Fort York, which includes Forma. Malik praised the development team’s efforts to be inclusive of community voices while refining the proposal, which resulted in the creation of a set of community spaces that define the project’s non-residential programming.
“My deepest belief is that we can work together to build a city where everyone belongs,” she said. “These community benefits are a testament to our commitment to creating a development that not only adds to the built city, but also enriches the lives of the community members who call Toronto home.”
Malik’s statement was followed by words from Mitchell Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of Westdale Properties, who spoke of fond memories of working with Gehry to bring the project to life, before inviting Gehry to take the stage.
Jerry took a moment to express the development team’s belief in his vision, expressing that they “joined to build a work of art.” He said, “I think everyone feels that this is what we are doing, and it is very special.”
Recounting how he met David Mirvish through friends in the fine arts field, Jerry discussed how Forma started years ago, and why she spoke to him. “(Mirvish) had these two great theaters, and he had King Street where I used to hang out when I was a kid — my grandmother’s house was on Beverly Street — so I knew the neighborhood and I still feel my roots here,” he said. “I felt a part of him.”
Expressing his excitement for construction to finally begin, Jerry ended his speech with a lukewarm look forward toward the project’s eventual completion. “I can’t wait. I’m only 94, so I expect to be here.” “I think I should be 102… so pray for me.”
The last to speak was Great Gulf co-owner Eli Reisman, who claimed that in his 45-year development career, this was the first time he had spoken publicly about a project. With an ambitious building like Forma, he simply had to weigh in.
“This building is going to be a Toronto skyline, not just because it’s a great piece of architecture, but because it’s a great piece of inspiration,” Risman said. “We’re going to inspire future developers and show them that we can do great things, and that we can hire great people to do it, because if you don’t start… With greatness, you will not end up with greatness.
And with that, Jerry and the development team leaders took their Forma-branded shovels and drove into the dirt pile. At that moment, Forma’s next journey officially began.
Before the event ended, we had the opportunity to speak with Cohen in person to get a better idea of what this day means for the team and the rest of Toronto. “I’m excited to see what other developers do, because we’ve definitely raised the bar,” he told us.
“Toronto deserves better architecture,” he continued. “The main reason we are successful is because we are building an amazing building. We are changing the skyline, and other developers will notice it, and they will follow us.
But what Cohen also made clear is that there is still more work to be done. “For Great Gulf, Dream and Westdale, this day means that we have accomplished our tasks, but we are not finished yet,” he said. “Now we have to build it. As you can see, we are on the ground, working away, and we are very proud.”
With Forma’s East Tower generating sales in excess of $1 billion, the construction of the project over the next few years is unlikely to be far from people’s minds, especially as more and more of the historic design begins to come together. Meanwhile, the launch timeline for the taller western tower has not yet been announced, but we suspect it could come any day.
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