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Come join Swim Drink Fish to imagine the future of Toronto’s waterfront

By Mark Mattson published on Waterkeeper on August 9, 2019. 

Ontario Place: Come join us. Imagine the future of Toronto’s waterfront

Friends,

On Saturday, August 10 at 2:00pm on the southwest end of Ontario Place a few people interested in water access in Toronto are gathering to view and discuss the potential for a new swimming access point at Ontario Place. This is a fun, informal gathering for the people and organizations who want to dream together about restoring swimming access to Ontario Place. 

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has been sampling the area and posting results to Swim Guide each week this summer. We’ll be meeting at the location you see in Swim Guide, so if you want to join us open the app or visit the website, find the Ontario Place beach, and follow Directions to find us. We’ll also provide a demonstration of our sampling process, for those who are interested. 

This area is a beautiful spot, with a feeling that you’re miles away from the city.  Paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks can pull up right on the shore. Our sampling results this summer show that this is some of the cleanest water in Toronto.

The site has so much potential, but it doesn’t meet the criteria for an official beach in Toronto (yet!). The water is not as accessible as it should be and some debris/ fill may make water entry and exit hazardous for swimmers. Ontario Place is discouraging people from swimming there, even though increasing numbers of people are flocking to their new favourite “secret beach.”

Imagine what it could be in the future. With re-engineered water access, like the Pier we helped to create in Kingston, this could be an iconic destination for people seeking nature in the heart of our city.

The goal of the discussion is to bring to life the imaginations of Toronto and Ontario residents to see what this location could become. We saw this happen in Kingston last summer with Breakwater Park and we know it can happen here.

Your attendance will make a difference. Join me and other interested waterfront lovers, if you can.

Best,

Mark Mattson

Ontario Line Initial Business Case, JULY 2019

Ontario Line Initial Business case is available on the Metrolinx website.

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Let’s Keep Ontario Place in the Public Interest

International Parks Expert Supports Ontario Place for All

John Alschuler, chair of HR&A Associates told more than 60 supporters of Ontario Place for All at a fundraiser last week that the Ontario Government was going in totally the wrong direction by opening up Ontario Place to private developers.

Ontario Place for All Needs Your Help to Commission a Full Report to Get this Message Across – Please Consider a Donation.

We want to have HR&A Associates research the economic and social benefits that will come from keeping Ontario Place as a public park. We would send this ground-breaking report to the Premier and to Toronto’s mayor so that facts not rhetoric will prevail in the debate over the future of this waterfront jewel. So please donate. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get things right at Ontario Place. Your contribution will have an impact for years to come.

Here is the core message that John Alschuler gave supporters last week:

“The current efforts to create a private development model for the future of
Ontario Place rests on fundamentally ill-conceived and outmoded models of
urban economics. It is neither in the best interests of your community, as a civic
gesture, as a community gesture, and it’s fundamentally irrational as an
economic strategy.”

Alschuler has a lot of experience in building 21st century parks. HR&A Associates has helped develop some of the most innovative parks in North America, including:

  • The High Line, New York City
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City
  • Dallas Park System, Dallas Texas
  • Capital Riverfront, Washington

Alschuler used the High Line, a 2.33 km elevated linear park on the west side of Manhattan built on an abandoned railway spur, as an example of what governments can do when they invest in public spaces.

“In New York, we spent 300 million dollars to develop High-Line Park. It’s generated 3 billion dollars in incremental tax value to the City.”

Alschuler says investing in public parks creates not just more economic benefits than private development. It also creates better cities, which attract talent, something that cities around the world are competing for. And it helps create social cohesion.

“We are cities that are struggling to try to grow in ways that are more equitable. And Increasingly our neighbourhoods are stratified by income, and too often by race, and we become fragmented as a community. And if we are to continue to grow, and attract that talent from around the world, we have to have places that are devoted to breaking down that fragmentation, to breaking down that stratification.”

Alschuler’s Visit Made a Splash in the Media

Both the CBC and the Globe and Mail gave some prominence to what Alschuler had to say about the future of Ontario Place. Matt Galloway spoke to him Matt Galloway spoke to him on Metro Morning, the morning of his visit. Matt said there is growing momentum to preserve Ontario Place as a public space.

The Globe and Mail’s architectural critic, Alex Bozikovic followed that up with a column on July 10th. Bozikovic praised Alschuler’s ideas and referred to Ontario Place for All as a new citizens’ group trying to stop the privatization of the waterfront provincial park in Toronto.

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Show us Your Ontario Place

Now is the time when Ontario Place is at its best, when thousands go down there to eat, sail ride and see movies at Cinesphere. What are your favourite things to do at Ontario Place? 

Post the photos of you and your family enjoying Ontario Place on our Facebook Page.

Statement of Cultural Heritage Value

The Ontario government has taken down Ontario Place Statement of Heritage Value from its website.

Description of the property

Ontario Place is located off the shore of Lake Ontario on Toronto’s western waterfront. The 63 hectare land and water lot property (28 hectares land, 35 hectares water) is located directly south of Exhibition Place. The site consists of two artificially-made islands linked to the waterfront via a network of structures (entry plazas, pedestrian bridges and pathways) and the public entry gates from the waterfront trail. The core area features the iconic Cinesphere and Pavilion, as well as the crystalline forms of three village clusters set within the prominent naturalized landscape, canals, lagoons and a centrally-located marina. The property boundary extends 330 metres west and 25 metres east from the edges of the islands into Lake Ontario, north to Lake Shore Boulevard and south to the end of the marina breakwater.

Ontario Place was listed in 1994 by the International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings of the Modern Movement (DOCOMOMO International) on its inventory of significant international works of the Modern Movement.

Vision Statement

Ontario Place, opened in 1971, was conceived by former Premier, the Honorable John Robarts, as a showplace for the province’s identity, culture and economic growth. Ontario Place was designed as an inclusive public entertainment, educational and recreational space and programmed to reflect the province’s people, culture and geography, as well as a vision for the province’s future.

Ontario Place featured innovative new landforms and structures built on Toronto’s waterfront, reshaping the relationship between the urban landscape and Lake Ontario. Ontario Place, a cultural heritage landscape, remains a rare and intact Modernist expression of integrated architecture, engineering and landscape that honours and incorporates the natural setting of Lake Ontario. It was a remarkable and ambitious achievement of late twentieth century architecture, and holds an enduring influence in Toronto, the province and internationally.

Heritage Value

Ontario Place is a cultural heritage landscape of provincial significance.

Contextual and historical value

Ontario Place, a significant provincial public works project of the Canadian Centennial era, reflects a time of prosperity and social development in Ontario which began after the Second World War. The development occurred at a time of dynamic economic expansion and urbanization, of optimism and confidence, of new intellectual and cultural life within the province.

Ontario Place is a response to the success of the temporary Ontario Pavilion at Expo’ 67 in Montreal, as well as a reflection of the provincial government’s commitment to investing in cultural identity through public entertainment and educational facilities and public agencies including but not limited to the Ontario Science Centre and Fort William Historical Park.

The site in its entirety — integrating innovative approaches to planning, landscape, architecture, engineering and educational programming — represents a bold visionary statement of its time realized at a scale and quality that earned international recognition and admiration. Ontario Place has strong associations with the politicians and civil servants who shaped the idea and provided the resources, and with the designers who translated those ideas into reality. Associations are held with former Premier, the Honourable John Robarts, and provincial civil servant Jim Ramsay, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada gold medalist architect Eberhard Zeidler, landscape architect Michael Hough and play structure architect and pioneer Eric McMillan.

As an entertainment, educational and recreational centre serving the entire province, Ontario Place has attracted millions of visitors since its opening in 1971 and has remained a familiar and iconic landmark for many Ontarians and visitors. The site was intended as a place for a diverse and multi-generational audience experience.

Design value.

Ontario Place is a rare surviving example of a designed cultural heritage landscape within the international modernist movement of the late twentieth century. The site created a uniquely integrated environment for entertainment, education and recreation.

The core area of Ontario Place (see map) remains relatively intact and embodies the modernist design vision of interconnected geometries. This is demonstrated in the megastructure forms of both the Cinesphere and pods with their interconnecting walkways, as well as the more modest crystalline modular forms of the three village clusters, designed as gathering places for visitors. These structures are set against an ecological landscape of naturalized landforms, a range of water features, including canals, lagoons and a marina, offering various intimate and compelling views within its designed space.

This particular combination of elements constitutes one of the most important expressions of late twentieth century modernism in the history of the province — the naturalized landforms, on the cutting edge of new ecological design interests; the Cinesphere with its triodetic dome and pioneering IMAX technology; the Pavilion, comprised of five interconnected pods with their tensile structural arrangement; the Forum and the Children’s Village play area with their new forms of public engagement (both no longer in existence); and the overall programming designed to change the public perception of Toronto’s waterfront.

Heritage Attributes

There exist a number of contextual and design attributes on the site that individually and collectively contribute to the provincial cultural heritage value of Ontario Place. The historical values are woven throughout the site and landscape, and expressed in the attributes described below.

Contextual attributes

The following attributes are expressed throughout the site, and continue to represent the original ideas behind the creation of Ontario Place:

  • Bold redefinition of the relationship between city and lake, with an integrated approach to architecture, engineering, landscape and waterscape.
  • Innovative integration of design and programming – the landforms, structures and plazas that reflect the vision of Ontario Place as a centre for recreation, education, entertainment and public gathering.
  • A public works project dedicated to the people of Ontario as commemorated in a plaque at the main entrance.
  • A geometric and technologically innovative series of interconnected structures, including buildings, bridges and pods set against the naturalized surroundings of mature trees and native plant species.
  • The shaping of the landforms to create an integrated series of lagoons and canals, as well as naturalized shorelines open to the larger expanse of Lake Ontario, creating both close-range and distant relationships between land and water.
  • Pathways with constructed views into and out of the site, to and from the urban landscape to the north and to the open expanse of Lake Ontario.
  • The views within the core area, as part of the various pathways for movement on land, on water and within the megastructure components.
Design attributes

The following attributes are located in the core area of Ontario Place and represent the innovative and iconic elements of the site as reflected in the structures, the integration of the architecture with the landscape and the water features:

  • The highly geometric architecture of the Pavilion, the Cinesphere and the connecting walkways and bridges, composed of glass and steel detailing (such as columns, beams, braces) in modern architectural style.
  • The triodetic structural system of the Cinesphere with its iconic spherical shape and screen design to host the innovative IMAX projection system.
  • The Pavilion, with its five mast-hung pods, each projecting up out of the open water and connected by long-span suspended walkways.
  • The flexible interiors and usable roof spaces of the five pods.
  • The public gathering spaces connected to the three village clusters, with their modernist crystalline modular forms.
  • The varying scale of the complementary built structures — from the prominent Cinesphere to the more modest village clusters.
  • A public entrance with a connection to two west bridges and the presence of Ontario Place branding/wayfinding signage.
  • Designed localized microclimates, using landscaping, trees and indigenous plant materials.
  • The walkways, trails, lagoons and the two west bridges (linking to the west island and the Pavilion) that connect discrete activity areas throughout the site and encourage a pedestrian experience.
  • The design of the breakwaters, fashioned from sunken lake ships.
  • The water features— the marina, the pavilion bay, the inner channel — that help shape entirely new landforms, and that provide a setting for the movement of small watercraft.

Map of Heritage Place

Letter from Richard Longley

Close to a thousand of you have sent letters to Premier Ford and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation opposing their plans for the possible destruction of Ontario Place.

One of the supporters of Ontario Place for All, Richard Longley, sent us a copy of his letter, and gave us permission to share it with you:

Dear Premier Ford, Ministers Tibollo and McNaughton, all others who care about the future of Ontario Place and Exhibition Place.

Why the urge to destroy Ontario Place in order to save it? Why the reflexive insistence on “no residence”? Call an international design competition to consider its future?

I’m relieved that the provincial government has abandoned the idea of a casino at Ontario Place. But I am dismayed that every part of architect Eb Zeidler and landscape architect’s Michael Hough’s “machine in a park” is available for “transformation”. Pods, islands, Cinesphere and the stunningly beautiful Trillium Park with its William G. Davis Trail, its superb views of Toronto and its references to historic First Nations presence on the lakefront – all are up for grabs. 

The grotesquely ugly (but very successful!) Budweiser Stage built in 1995 on the site of Eb Zeidler’s demolished but still much missed Forum (that was also extremely successful) is the only part of Ontario Place that’s protected. (Paradoxically, by a lease with Live Nation, an affiliate of Labatt’s Brewery, that seems to warrant more Provincial Government respect than the lease that protects the Beer Store).

The Ontario Place Call For Development acknowledges that it cannot flourish year-round without public transit superior to what is there at present. It currently requires a long, bleak walk over a parking lot desert to the bridge to Ontario Place. If the Ontario Line is built – for an estimated cost of $10.9b – it would go through the city, connecting the south-centre of Exhibition Place to the Ontario Science Centre. But will the Ontario Line be built if year-round ridership to and from Ontario Place and Exhibition Place cannot justify such a colossal investment? 

Not acknowledged in the Call for Development is something agreed to by all who have thought about its future: Ontario Place cannot be improved without parallel improvement of Exhibition Place. 

But the strangest paradox in the Call for Development must be this: “Residential development will not be permitted on the site.”

Why does this reflexive prohibition against residence persist, when the desire of all who would revitalize Ontario Place or rebuild it, is to make Ontario Place alive and active year-round

Will the “entertainment, sports, commercial, recreation and/or leisure attractions” suggested in the Call for Development provide sufficient riders for the Ontario Line, 365 days a year, if no one is allowed to live there and create businesses near its Exhibition Place/Ontario Place terminus? (Note: near not on the Ontario Place site.)

The idea of Residence near Ontario Place has not always been taboo.

Harbour City was proposed in 1970 by the same Progressive Conservative government of Premier John Robarts that also produced Ontario Place.

In the video, Eb Zeidler proposes the construction of low- to mid-rise, low and medium cost housing for a population of 45,000-60,000 on reclaimed land between Ontario Place and the Toronto Islands. The community would be connected by canals and lagoons and protected by a ring of islands that would add 200 acres of parkland. Two-storey houses, one stacked above the other would be connected by walkways. The front of each house would face a community mews and children’s play space, the back would face water. Transit to the mainland would be by monorail similar that built for Expo ’67. But not everyone would be a commuter. People would work as well as live at Harbour City, houses would be convertible to restaurant and other uses and business spaces would be interleaved with housing up to nine storeys high.  

In the video, Urbanist Jane Jacobs brims with enthusiasm as she leans over a model of the project: “I’d like to live right in here because it’s very busy. In front, it’s a street, almost a plaza but in the back it’s a little pastoral scene. And the water! Two totally different worlds right at your doorstep. This is really exciting.  The whole place is full of variety. Every time you walk a little way, turn the corner, look around the corner you’re having a new experience. It isn’t dull. It isn’t routine. This is what a city ought to be. We’ve heard an awful lot about high density and people have been led to believe that high-density means high-rise living, monotony, barracks. Not true at all! This is a very high-density project and yet there’s nothing overwhelming or impersonal or routine about it. This is one of the reasons why I think this may be the most important advance in city planning that’s been made this century. It shows us what high-density living can be.

Later in the video Jane Jacobs pronounces: “This is new generation planning – not old men’s planning – young people’s planning.

Alderman William Kilbourn was equally keen. “Harbour City gets us away from idea that a new community has to be a sort of necropolis of bleak high-rise, a bunch of tombstones with some token rather wind-swept inhuman park space of grass or cement.” He also insists – enlarging on Eb Zeidler – that Harbour City must be “for people of all incomes and conditions.

If Harbour City had been built it would have been steps from Ontario Place and Exhibition Place and, by bike, boat – or adequate transit, if it too was built – minutes from downtown.

Eb Zeidler’s Harbour City would never be realized. One of the reasons was a fear that pollution would leak into the lake. And the fact that, as well as on 510 acres of artificial islands, Harbour City would have been built on 220 acres of land occupied by the Island Airport, forcing it to be moved elsewhere on the Toronto Islands.

If Harbour City was doomed not to provide housing near Ontario Place, how about a less romantic location: the concrete desert of Ontario Place and Exhibition parking lots that must be the most valuable under-developed lands in Canada? 

Too far from downtown for commuter parking, it’s all but empty most days of the year. How much of that land with its 6,420 above-ground parking spaces is needed during such special events as concerts at Budweiser Stage, games at BMO field, the Caribbean Festival, the Royal Winter Fair, the Honda Indy, the Ex? If any of that land is spare, why not build residences on it with spaces for artists, makers and businesses that would allow people to work as well as live near Ontario Place and Exhibition Place?

 

If parking was sent underground at Ontario Place, it would allow more attractive and profitable uses above ground. Would construction on those parking lots obscure views to and from Exhibition Place and Ontario Place? Not if it were low-rise and as cunningly designed as Harbour City. The views couldn’t be any worse than they have been for decades, thanks to the presence of those parking lots.

Harbour City might have hovered too close to fantasy but is there nowhere on those barren parking lots of Ontario Place and Exhibition Place, where there might be room for exciting architecture that would brim with economic, cultural and recreational potential? Are there architects, planners and politicians who can make that dream come true, without crippling Exhibition Place or destroying Ontario Place?

Politicians? The government that commissioned and built Ontario Place and sponsored Harbour City was, like the present provincial government: Progressive Conservative.

Premier John Robarts’ passion for Ontario Place is remembered in a few fragments of what he said at a preview of Ontario Place in November 1970: “We should let our imaginations soar. . ..  a major new recreational complex for the use of the people of Ontario. . .. a new focal point for our province…. a new attitude to our lakefronts…. a new showcase for our province and people.

John Robarts is no longer with us, but Bill Davis, who succeeded him and saw the construction of Ontario Place to its conclusion still is; so is Eb Zeidler.  If Ontario Place is demolished or disfigured by some lesser imagination than theirs, who will be to blame? Are we willing to consign Eb Zeidler to the “Rubble Club” of architects who live long enough to see their work demolished in their lifetime? That will happen if we permit a revitalization of Ontario Place that would “destroy it in order to save it“?

Architects of the calibre of Eb Zeidler teach us how to build and dream on the shoulders of giants. We’ve forgotten that too often. Let’s not do it again at Ontario Place.

In 2012 Ontario Place was listed on the list of Top 10 Most Endangered Places by the National Trust for Canada. In 2019 it was nominated again. Don’t let that nomination be justified.

Rather than call for development that might destroy it, the provincial government should call an International Design Competition for new uses for Ontario Place that will:

  • Not destroy or disfigure any of the original parts of Ontario Place, its landscape or any part of Trillium Park. 
  • Maintain public access to Lake Ontario along the entire shoreline of Ontario Place and Trillium Park with existing views from the lakeshore.
  • Propose more creative and attractive uses for Ontario Place and Exhibition Place parking lots that might include building housing on them for the residents and creators whose year-round presence will justify building the Ontario Line to what is a ghost-town for much of the year.

Challenging? Yes. That’s why the future of Ontario Place (with Exhibition Place) deserves to be addressed by an international design competition. 

With best regards,

Richard Longley, Former President – Architectural Conservancy Ontario

Let’s Turn Ontario Place into a 21st Century Park

by Ken Greenberg, Urban Designer, Author of Toronto Reborn and Member of Ontario Place for All

Over the past few decades, we have learned that the sharing of green spaces in dense cities is essential to our well-being as human beings and social creatures. This has increased the desire for public parks and public space, but the means to address this unmet need are still lacking. In order to close this gap, we need a new definition for parks in the 21st century and new stewardship models on how to run them.

Fortunately, a new form of urban park is emerging that is no longer separate from the city but integrally interwoven into it. As Betsy Barlow Rogers, the former executive director of New York’s Central Park Conservancy, puts it: “As the city becomes more park-like, the park becomes more city-like.” This means new activities and uses within the park, including some commercial and cultural uses while preserving its essential publicness and free access.  

These new hybrid parks that are appearing in cities around the world are being asked to play powerful new roles – improving the quality of life, stimulating the competitiveness of the local economy, healing the environment, reclaiming no man’s lands and overcoming barriers between communities.

Ontario currently has an extraordinary opportunity to turn Ontario Place into a leading international example of just such a 21st century park, particularly if it is integrated with Exhibition Place and the built and landscape heritage on the site is creatively adapted and reused.  

Ontario Place would then become a critical part of an emerging public realm on the waterfront. This consolidated “Lakefront Park” would be a grand new gathering place on the waterfront and major tourist draw, offering an expanded array of activities, including swimming, fishing, skating, major annual events, theatres, marinas, restaurants and cafes and heritage sites. Improved regional and city transit and local shuttles and trail connections would improve accessibility and encourage active transportation.  Ontario Place’s attractive landscapes would be preserved as part of a freely accessible “Lakefront Park” that would extend like an emerald arm across the waterfront.

As development intensifies on the waterfront, Ontario Place would also serve the needs of the expanding nearby population for vibrant cultural, commercial and tourism activities.  Just as Sydney, Chicago and Barcelona and other future thinking cities are planning their waterfronts, a series of linked parks would draw populations from the surrounding city to the water’s edge and create a seamlessly connected lakefront. 

A land bridge to Exhibition Place would connect Ontario Place to the fairgrounds of the Canadian National Exhibition and parking, hotels, restaurants and transit. The southern edge of Exhibition Place can be interwoven with Ontario Place and a reworked shoreline as a great park-like attraction on the water’s edge. 

If we integrate Exhibition Place and Ontario Place, we would be unleashing a new synergy on the waterfront, with attractions such as a new soccer stadium, boat races, a water park, shops, theatres and marinas. The combined site would be transformed into an exciting and re-energized public attraction on the waterfront, serving Ontarians and drawing visitors from around the world.

This new consolidated park would be powerful new image for the city and the province. 

Press Release

Ontario Place for All says it is going to fight any attempt by the Ontario government to turn Ontario Place over to private business interests.

The community group says the Development Proposal released today by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport will allow developers to ban the public from any or all of the 155-acre waterfront park. It will also allow them to destroy significant heritage landmarks, such as the Cinesphere, the Pods and the recently-built Trillium Park. The only thing protected is the privately-run Budweiser Stage.

“If the government succeeds with this wholesale destruction of Ontario Place,” says Cynthia Wilkey, a member of the Ontario Place For All Steering committee, “Ontario Place could be turned into a gated entertainment community, accessible only to those who can afford to pay.”

Ontario Place for All (ontarioplaceforall.com) is fighting to preserve public access to Ontario Place, ensuring the park remains a jewel in Toronto’s system of Waterfront parks.

“Not only is the government turning Ontario Place over to private business interests,” says Suzanne Kavanagh, another member of the Steering Committee, “but it is offering the developers a subsidy, by paying all the costs of soil remediation and the necessary utilities.”

Urban planner Ken Greenberg says today’s announcement is a slap in the face for the City of  Toronto. “City Council unanimously approved a set of principles for the redevelopment of Ontario Place, that called for full community consultation, a recognition of the site’s Indigenous heritage, and it’s joint development with Exhibition Place. None of these are now going to happen.”

For more information,

Contact:  

Cynthia Wilkey – wilkeycj@gmail.com –  (416) 892-8941

Suzanne Kavanagh – suzkav123@gmail.com(647) 309-4365

Strong Support from Tourism Toronto

Tourism Toronto has released a Tourism Test that it says should guide any future redevelopment of Ontario Place. The test has six elements, that Tourism Toronto says are key to developing an exceptional visitor experience.

  • An iconic new landmark
  • Year-round destination
  • Embrace the waterfront
  • Retain heritage elements.
  • Multi-modal access.
  • Jointly planned with Exhibition Place

Ontario Place is clearly one of the most important opportunities in Toronto to create something truly new and compelling that will attract new visitors from around the world,” says Andrew Weir, Executive Vice President, Destination Development at Tourism Toronto. “The Government of Ontario has begun a process to seek ideas for Ontario Place’s future and we are bringing a tourism lens and expertise to that discussion.”  

Overwhelming Support from Toronto City Council

Last week, Toronto City Council unanimously endorsed the fight to keep Ontario Place as a publicly accessible jewel on Toronto’s waterfront. Every Councillor at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting supported a motion by Mayor John Tory that established a strong City policy on the proposed revitalization of Ontario Place.
 
The good news is the City’s policy aligns with the principles adopted by Ontario Place for All. It calls for the City and the province to:
  • restore the purpose of Ontario Place as a showcase and destination for Ontario;
  • enhance public access to the full-length of the Ontario Place shoreline, and protect its natural heritage features;
  • develop a mix of non-residential uses and activities that reflect its waterfront location;
  • include Ontario Place on the City of Toronto’s Heritage Register;
  • link Ontario Place with Exhibition Place in order to realize the natural synergies between the two sites;
  • consult with Indigenous peoples, including the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation; and
  • improve transit access to, from and between Ontario Place and Exhibition Place.
Most importantly, Mayor Tory argued that any decision by the Ontario government has to be done through a fully-transparent public process, that is responsive to the broader community. “I am really hopeful that the province will, in a genuine way, adopt a different approach that what has been done in the budget. That was unilateral, that was retroactive, it was done without consultation.
 
The Councillor for Spadina-Fort York, Joe Cressy, was key to developing the City’s position on Ontario Place and ensuring the unanimous support of his fellow councillors.“If you want to reimagine Ontario Place, it has to be led by and driven by clear principles based on public policy and public interest. We have been proactive in articulating a series of principles related to public access, connection to the waterfront, heritage preservation, expansion of parkland, arts and culture with year-round animation… I have been blown away at the thousands of Torontonians and Ontarians who have responded on his, from the Ontario Place for All organizing group, just ordinary residents who come out to town halls.
 
The City’s move supporting an accessible future for Ontario Place has already had an impact. Infrastructure Ontario was expected to release its expected Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) last week, giving developers direction as to what the Ontario government sees as the future of Ontario Place. But Ontario Place for All has learned that, under pressure from the Mayor’s Office, that REOI has been delayed until the end of the month.

Ontario Place for All would like to thank Mayor Tory, Councillor Cressy and City Council for their leadership and strong support for Ontario Place.

Things are heating up at Ontario Place

Next week will see two pivotal events that could determine the future of Ontario Place, and whether it remains an Ontario Place that is for all of us. It could be a classic good news/bad news situation.

First, starting Tuesday, Toronto City Council will meet to decide its position on the province’s plans to redevelop the site. The first of two reports going to Council will propose the City work with Queen’s Park to develop a strategy to jointly plan the future of Ontario Place and Exhibition Place in a collaborative, co-operative and consultative manner with all stakeholders.

The second report lays out the guiding principles that City staff believe should govern the revitalization of Ontario Place.

Ontario Place for All fully supports the reports going to City Council. We believe they align fully with our principles and are the best way to ensure a future for Ontario Place that includes all of us. Joe Cressy, the City councillor for Spadina Fort-York deserves a lot of credit for making this happen.

More ominously, next Thursday, the Ontario Government is expected to release its Request for Expressions of Interest, a more detailed outline of what it wants to see at Ontario Place. This document will give developers broad guidelines on what they should propose for the 155-acre waterfront park.

Ontario Place for All is very concerned that this Request for Expressions of Interest is going to open up Ontario Place to widespread commercial development. The government’s promises to consult with stakeholders now appear hollow.

So next week the battle to preserve Ontario Place as a 21st Century Park will officially begin, and we need to rise to the challenge. While we been quietly organizing and preparing for this event over the winter, now is the time that Ontario Place for All needs your help.  

We are planning to hold a number of events this spring and this summer, to emphasize the widespread opposition to what the Government has said it is going to do, highlight the existing beauty and vitality of this dynamic waterfront park, and to show how any changes to Ontario Place can benefit all Ontarians, not just developers.

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