Perched over the Don Valley, the Riverdale hospital half-round delights and intrigues. But now there are plans to raze one of the best examples of modern architecture in the country to make room for a lopsided condo development - and the city is trading away parkland to do it.
The grand scheme Construction of a new 12-storey hospital, a 10-storey building for institutional uses and two other eight-storey "mixed-use" buildings (read condos) at Broadview and Gerrard.
The controversial part Demolition of the nine-storey circa-1960s half-round (formerly known as Riverdale Hospital) currently occupied by Bridgepoint Health, the world's largest complex care provider.
What the preservationists say According to the Toronto Architectural Conservancy, among others, the half-round is a national treasure, one of the best examples of modern architecture in the country. And, at the very least, consideration should be given to keeping it for housing, since a building on the site formerly used for social housing is also being demolished.
What Bridgepoint says There's no room on the site to accommodate the building, and it needs to be replaced because it can't be renovated to meet Ministry of Health standards.
The irony The inclusion of condos in Bridgepoint's scheme is what's crowding the site (densities approved are six times what's allowed). Other heritage properties on the site are being spared the wrecking ball. The Don Jail (which will house Bridgepoint's administrative offices), Governor's House, the Gatekeeper's House and St. Matthew's Lawn Bowling clubhouse (which will be moved offsite) are all being saved.
Behind the scenes The city's preservation board, which was asked by the Toronto Architectural Conservancy to declare the building a heritage property last spring but never responded, has kept mum and signed off on the demolition.
What will be saved The distinctive mushroom canopies at the hospital entrance and Saico glass tile wall mural by Margit Gatterbauer in the hospital foyer.
The green space problem The city is disposing of publicly owned parkland, which is strongly discouraged in the Official Plan, to make room for the redevelopment. The Conservation Authority has also given the go-ahead, despite the fact that some of the development will be inside the 10-metre buffer required on lands adjacent to the Don Valley. One hundred five of the 248 trees on the site will also be removed, including a silver maple with a trunk 104 centimetres (41 inches) in diameter.
The alternative Massing the hospital building and condos on the southern and western edges of the site respectively, so the half-round can be saved.
Why Bridgepoint's balking It says the arrangement would create "functional issues" for access, garbage, loading and deliveries. Patients would also have to cross a public street, Bridgepoint says, to access a park that's part of the proposal. Added to that is the city's claim that building a new hospital and keeping the half-round would have a negative visual impact on Riverdale Park.
The wrench in the works There may be human remains on the site in a prison cemetery in the former courtyard of the old Don Jail that was paved over in 1986.
The verdict Time to go back to the drawing board. As proposed, the Bridgepoint plan will create, to borrow the words of one critic, "an inelegant clump" of buildings that's out of place on the edge of the valley.