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Just over a year after plans were unveiled for the University of Toronto's proposed Centre for Civilizations, Cultures and Cities (CCC) at 90 Queen's Park Crescent, the City has received additional materials in support of the rezoning and Site Plan applications. In response to comments from Heritage Preservation Services, heritage consultants ERA Architects have supplemented the initial Heritage Impact Assessment with additional background information and rationale for the proposed site alterations, which include the demolition of the long shuttered McLaughlin Planetarium.

Looking northwest from Queen's Park Crescent, image via submission to the City of Toronto

The site is located on the west side of Queen's Park Crescent south of the Royal Ontario Museum. The 6,780 m² property is currently occupied by the planetarium, the 119-year-old Falconer Hall, and the open space east of the two buildings. The new nine-storey building, designed by New York-based architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Toronto's architectsAlliance, would be integrated with the west elevation of Falconer Hall. The project is planned to house a number of programs under one roof, including History, the School of Cities, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, the Institute of Islamic Studies, the Archaeology Centre, and an arm of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. The development would also include a music recital hall and a 400-seat events space, both with views looking south to the financial district skyline.

The CCC would require the demolition of later additions to the Falconer Building located at the northwest corner and a vestibule at the southwestern corner. Falconer Hall is to be designated as a heritage building through the subject application.

View northeast from Philosopher's Walk, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Additional renderings show the relationship between the proposed structure and the existing EJB. The east elevation of EJB and the west elevation of the proposed development will be buffered by a courtyard. The new structure would feature a ground-level connection to EJB consisting of "glazing and contemporary materials." 

The McLaughlin Planetarium, designed by Allward & Gouinlock in collaboration with Stone & Webster Engineers, was completed in 1968 at the height of the Space Age. The planetarium was one of six built in the 1960s across Canada and the only one in Toronto. Of the six, many of which were built to celebrate Canada's centennial, only two remain in operation.

The Planetarium's Modernist design represented a departure from the Beaux-Arts and Collegiate Gothic buildings that dominated the University of Toronto campus. After working on the project, Allward & Gouinlock were commissioned to design a number of other Modernist buildings for the school. The building bears the name of R.S. McLaughlin, former Chairman of the Board of General Motors of Canada, who provided $2.5 million for its construction and a further $1 million in an endowment fund. Early plans proposed a larger footprint—including a parking garage, theatre and tunnel to the subway—that would have required the complete demolition of Falconer Hall.

The HIA states that upon opening, "the McLaughlin Planetarium was noted to be among one of the best planetariums in the world." The building included a north wing connected to the Royal Ontario Museum at the second floor. Just three months prior to opening of the planetarium, the ROM officially separated from the University of Toronto.

Expansion of the ROM in the late 1970s led to the demolition of the planetarium's north wing, clearing the south courtyard space for the Curatorial Centre. The workshop, sound studio, theatre entrance, passenger elevator and about one-third of the display area were lost in the demolition. The remaining gallery, which former head of the planetarium Thomas Clark says was "often reported to be the finest astronomical display in North America," was removed in 1978 to temporarily accommodate the lost workshop and studio. The closure of the ROM for the Curatorial Centre renovations hurt the planetarium's attendance. Paired with provincial budget cuts in 1995, the planetarium was forced to close its doors.

Renovated by Kohn Shnier Architects, the building found a new lease on life in 1998 as the Children's Own Museum. The lease ended four years later and the structure was once again shuttered to the public. The ROM then used the building for offices and storage space, leasing it from the University of Toronto once it was sold in 2009. The building is now completely vacant.

A status report as part of an update to the University of Toronto Secondary Plan described the McLaughlin Planetarium and the adjacent Edward Johnson Building as "having potential heritage value." Heritage Preservation Services later completed an initial assessment of the two properties and determined both have heritage value and will continue to be assessed. 

Responding to the initial application, the City's heritage staff explained that the HIA "does not demonstrate that the cultural heritage value of the planetarium is insufficient to merit conservation of the physical form." It also references specific text within the HIA, which reads: "This assessment indicates that the McLaughlin Planetarium satisfies some of the criteria for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act for its historical/associative value and local landmark status." 

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