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Toronto Designs Legit Oasis

City Council plans a downtown theater block that will include two more legit houses and a highrise housing work space and condos for artists.

The block is bounded by the 97-year-old Massey Hall concert venue, the already restored Pantages theater and the publicly owned dual Elgin-Winter Garden Theater site.

The proposal mixes public restorations with a plan by the Garth Drabinsky-Myron Gottlieb-headed Live Theater Corp. to build a highrise, housing a large theater, artists’ work space and condos, just south of the company-owned Pantages theater.

The city aims to put a 300-seat legit house and a cafe in one of two turn-of-the-century bank buildings in the block and install the Toronto Historical Board offices in the other one.

The city already has spent $C5 million ($4.3 million) acquiring property in the block and, says Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton, will spend an additional $C9 million to $C12 million ($7.8 million to $10.4 million). The money will be raised by selling building rights.

The privately owned 2,300-seat Massey Hall plans to expand its lobby and backstage and office space at a cost of $C8 million ($6.9 million), probably via a public campaign for funds. The timing, Eggleton says, depends on market conditions but the city intends to call for proposals for the 300-seat theater and cafe in the next few months.

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