BRUCE KUWABARA has been
recognized and honoured as a creative genius based in Toronto.
We love him and Shirley Blumberg for
conceiving our vision for Downtown Toronto and the award-winning 500,000 sq
ft project that we developed during the 90's on the waterfront of Queen's
Best of Canada 2001
developed for Richard Li's Pacific Century Group by Andrea Eng
From car wash to new home of the stars
It's a year before builders aim to call it a wrap
on the Toronto International Film Festival's new headquarters, and creative
differences have arisen between the "director" - architect Bruce
Kuwabara - and the "producer" - King and John Festival Corp.
The issue is whether an outdoor staircase
connecting the rooftop of the five-storey Bell Lightbox movie theatre with
the pool area of the Festival Tower condominiums should be accessible to
both Bell Lightbox visitors and Tower residents - or closed to all. Mr.
Kuwabara wants it open. King and John has other ideas. And so it goes.
It's certainly not a show-stopper. Indeed, it's
but a minor hitch considering the differing aims of the commercial and
cultural partners who have spearheaded the mixed-used development rising
from a former parking lot three blocks north of the CN Tower.
As movie stars and film lovers fan out across the
city this Thursday for the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF),
they might include a side trip to the construction site to scope out what
should be the hub of activity for the festival this time next year.
TIFF's fundraising campaign - the target totals
$196-million - is on track, as are the construction schedule and condominium
sales, partners say.
"We have another $50-million left to raise,
so there is a sense of urgency," TIFF co-director Noah Cowan conceded.
"But as the funding campaign is composed of three parts - capital,
endowment and operating funds - we have various ways of recombining these
amounts so we can stay on schedule."
Festival organizers are hoping events at this
year's TIFF will yield more contributions. "There's no better
opportunity than the upcoming festival to showcase to our donors and
prospective donors what we can do," Mr. Cowan said.
He stopped short of comparing raising money for
Bell Lightbox with that of producing a film. "Donating philanthropic
moneys for a top-notch global organization is far less risky than investing
in a film. We don't call our donors investors."
That is, with the exception of the Reitman family
- the filmmaker Ivan and his sisters Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels. They are
wearing two hats: as donors to the TIFF fundraising campaign and as joint
venture partners with Toronto home builder Daniels Corp. in King and John
Corp., which is developing the 41-storey condo tower above Bell Lightbox.
"I bought a penthouse there myself," Mr.
Reitman said in a phone interview from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Part of King and John's $22-million donation
consists of the land that the project occupies, until recently a parking
lot, but the site of a car wash when Klara and Leslie Reitman purchased it
in the early 1960s.
Mr. Reitman calls the fruition of his parents'
vision for the area "the culmination of a great immigrant story."
They came to Canada from Ukraine after escaping the Holocaust,
"penniless and not even able to speak the language," he said.
"My parents would be incredibly proud of what
we're doing today, because when he purchased the car wash over 50 years ago,
he said the city would come back to the area one day. And he was
The area, now known as the Entertainment District,
has come back with a roar - some would say too much of a roar. There have
been complaints about noise and rowdy patrons at the many bars and clubs
that have sprung up over several blocks in the past 15 years. But the TIFF
partners believe their project will bring a sense of maturity to the
Mr. Reitman says it will be "a centrepiece
for the Entertainment District, providing not only a focus for two weeks in
September, but all year long."
Thomas Dutton, senior vice-president at Daniels,
isn't worried about the effect of the district's reputation on condo sales.
"Selling in the Entertainment District has not been an issue for us at
all; neither from the point of view of people who want to live there, who
see it as an exciting, dynamic area, nor when it comes to construction.
We've suffered no vandalism," he said, adding that 80 to 85 per cent of
the condos are sold.
Daniels' donation to Bell Lightbox, through King
and John, consists of management fees during construction, Mr. Dutton
He expects the theatre will raise the district's
"The area is not nearly as bad as people make
it out to be," he said. "Most of the night life areas are further
north around Richmond and Adelaide. If you walk along King Street, there are
several excellent individually owned restaurants, theatres, Roy Thomson
Hall, Holiday Inn, Mountain Equipment Co-op and offices, so it's fairly
"But I do think the project will bring a
certain momentum and raise the whole standard for the area, because TIFF
will be running programs all year long."
Mr. Kuwabara, a partner in Toronto-based Kuwabara
Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, agrees.
"It just feels great being in the city during
the film festival, and having all that activity focused in this area not
only for 10 [days] but for 365 days a year will be incredible," he said
in an interview at his office, which overlooks the construction site.
In designing Bell Lightbox and Festival Tower, Mr.
Kuwabara said he aimed to create a modernist structure that is "highly
animated at street level" - with a bistro, retail boutiques and
TIFF-run gift shop, lobby and museum at ground level. Screening rooms,
archives, workshop areas, bar, restaurant and offices occupy the floors
above. The second floor restaurant and a bistro downstairs will remain the
property of King and John.
Mr. Kuwabara calls Bell Lightbox "a city of
film unto itself," and his design indulges his love of films: A flight
of stairs referencing the stepped roof of the Villa Malaparte on the
Mediterranean island of Capri - where Jean-Luc Goddard shot his 1963 film Contempt,
starring Brigitte Bardot and Jack Palance - sweeps up from the rooftop
terrace to the condo's pool area.
Mr. Kuwabara's fingers stroked the staircase of an
architectural model of the project. He bemoaned the notion that the stairs
connecting Bell Lightbox with Festival Tower probably will be cordoned off.
"It ruins the continuity."
And so it goes.
Special to The Globe and Mail
The credits roll
It's not quite a cast of thousands, but financial
support for Bell Lightbox, the new home for the Toronto International Film
Festival, runs far and wide:
The Governments of Canada and Ontario -
The Reitman family and Daniels Corp. through their
joint venture King and John Festival Corp. - $22-million.
Other donors, which include several individuals
and corporations: Visa Inc., the Copyright Collective of Canada, NBC
Universal Canada, the Allan Slaight family, the Brian Linehan Charitable
Foundation, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and TIFF's board of
directors, staff and volunteers have also contributed.
Corporate sponsors for Bell Lightbox include:
Bell Canada, which has naming rights and preferred
supplier status through 2018, with an option through 2023.
Royal Bank of Canada is a major sponsor and the
- 2008 September