PRESS RELEASE: ONTARIO PLACE FOR ALL CONDEMNS COMPROMISED ONTARIO PLACE HERITAGE IMPACT ASSESSMENT
PRESS RELEASE: ONTARIO PLACE FOR ALL CONDEMNS COMPROMISED ONTARIO PLACE HERITAGE IMPACT ASSESSMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 25, 2022
The City of Toronto Must Stop the Vandalism of Ontario Place
Ontario Place for All is calling on the City of Toronto to reject the application by Infrastructure Ontario to redevelop Ontario Place’s West Island. The application would take the entirety of the West Island out of public hands and turn into a private spa for the rich.
“This is not the vision Ontarians have for Ontario’s most iconic urban park,” says Co-Chair Cynthia Wilkey. “Turning over public space to a private spa is unacceptable. Other cities around the world are more farsighted and are embracing the civic and economic value of spectacularly designed parks.” Wilkey said. “City Council must turn down this development application and insist the Province produce a plan that better serves the people of Ontario.”
Ontario Place for All is concerned that the Ontario Government appears to be positioning itself to violate long-standing environmental and heritage protections in its efforts to destroy the West Island. Bill 23 threatens the statutory heritage protection for Ontario Place and the Province has exempted the West Island from the Ontario Place Environment Assessment that would put the plan to bulldoze all the trees and natural landscape under scrutiny.
Instead of celebrating this rare example of mid-century modernist design, the Ontario Government is promoting plans by a private (Austrian) company that flagrantly disrespect the innovative integration of architecture, engineering, landscape and water that is key to the cultural heritage value of Ontario Place. The threat of redevelopment has garnered global attention for Ontario Place and placed it on the World Monuments Fund 2020 Watch list for endangered places.
“This proposal undermines a multi-generational effort to make the waterfront available to all when there is a dire need for public space to serve a rapidly expanding population”, says Ken Greenberg, one of the founders of Ontario Place for All. “How does leveling Michael Hough’s ground-breaking landscape design and replacing it with acres of greenhouses and tropical vegetation align with the Provincial commitment to preserving the rich cultural heritage of Ontario Place? What has happened to the original intent that Ontario Place both democratize access to the waterfront and showcase the best of Ontario?
Ontario Place for All says now is the time for Toronto City Council to reconsider its cooperation with the Province over Ontario Place and insist the park’s future incorporates important lessons from the COVID pandemic. “We all saw how important open and publicly-accessible parkland is for preserving the health of a community,” says Co-Chair, Norm Di Pasquale. “Any significant shift to “pay to play” attractions would be a serious misstep.”
Ontario Place for All will continue to advocate for a long-term vision for Ontario Place that respects the core principles supported by thousands of Ontarians.
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For more information or for interviews
Cynthia Wilkey (416) 892-8941
Norm Di Pasquale (647) 917-3198
Our Core Principles
Don’t forget to vote on Monday October 24th. Consider supporting candidates that have pledged to keep Ontario Place a place for everyone.
One year later – Another frustrating round of public realm consultation? Still important to participate and let the Province know you are watching.
On October 27th 5:pm-7:00 pm, Ontario will be hosting a virtual consultation event on:
Register here! **Alert: keep trying to register – today the website says registration is closed.**
We are very concerned about how much open access the public will have to Ontario Place and who will be responsible for designing, maintaining and controlling it.
The Province has hired an excellent team (including the designer of Trillium Park) to develop a Public Realm Master Plan for Ontario Place. Unfortunately, it seems that the Therme’s occupation puts the whole of the West Island off-limits for that team. This is unacceptable.
The Public Realm Master Plan was expected to unify the publicly accessible open space – that is what is normally meant by the public realm. Instead, a preliminary presentation to the Waterfront Design Review Panel in July 2022, raised concerns that a) public space on the West Island is not included in the Master Plan (because it falls within the Therme lease?) and 2) the lion’s share of what is left to the Master Planning team is taken up by the massive parking lots and paved event space.
Not much left to the talented landscape designers and not much left of Ontario Place for the Public to enjoy. See the image at the end of this bulletin for an illustration of the problem.
An online consultation on the public realm design and Class EA will be open on the Province’s https://engageontarioplace.ca website as of October 25th.
Ontario Place for All reviewed and provided some suggestions for working around closed-ended questions for the online consultation one year ago. We will be doing the same with this new survey so stay tuned.
Click here to send a letter from our website to Premier Ford, Neil Lumsden – the new Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Kinga Surma – Minister of Infrastructure, and Mayor Tory.
This letter urges the Province to rethink its plans for Ontario Place in light of the devastating impact of Therme on the Cultural Heritage of Ontario, including its natural environment and its legacy of democratizing access to the waterfront.
Keep up the great work of amplifying your voice and the voices of journalists, urbanists, heritage experts and all those who care about the future of Ontario Place – share on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and your personal networks.
The rumble of discontent is getting louder. We need to make it roar!!!
No matter how small, your donations help our work. We are all volunteers, but we still need financial resources to fight on your behalf. Donations are handled by Park People, one of our partner organizations.
This is an image From the joint Infrastructure Ontario, City and Public Realm Team presentation to the Waterfront Design Review Panel in July:
Journalist/Urbanists John Lorinc and Shawn Micallef will be leading a walking discussion at Ontario Place on Sunday, Sept 11th at 10 am.
They have both called for the future of Ontario Place to become an issue in this fall’s municipal election campaign issue. What do you think? Come, join the discussion and pick up an Ontario Place for All pin. Meet at the East Entrance to Trillium Park, light rain or shine.
The Province has released its draft plan for the public areas under redevelopment at Ontario Place. And our biggest fear has come true: after taking away the parts that are being given to Therme, Live Nation and Écorécréo, there is very little left for the public.
Look closely: in the draft presentation, only the areas outside of the red line will be open to the public. Aside from Trillium Park, most of what is left are parking lots and the paved event space – little of which is slated to change. (WDRP presentation and meeting video – OP starts at 1:56).
Therme’s spa is poised to destroy core cultural heritage attributes of Ontario Place.
Recently released designs show the spa will obliterate the visual and functional relationship between the iconic Cinesphere/Pods at Ontario Place and its natural environment. This technology/nature relationship is at the heart of the recognized cultural heritage of Ontario Place.
The West Island’s carefully designed topography will be destroyed; hundreds of mature trees are going to be cut down.
Ontario Place’s foundational theme of equity and inclusion has been done away with. Those who cannot pay spa fees will be confined to the outside edge of the island. Therme will even control the west entrance and plans to replace the Ontario Place branding with its own. Ontario Place will be open for business, but not for most people.
Our municipal politicians need to be tougher and come up with more creative ways to ensure that Ontario Place remains a lakeside attraction for everyone.
Toronto residents have expressed their anger about the plans for Ontario Place, but the provincial government has refused to listen. It is now time to challenge the candidates for Mayor and Council during the current municipal campaign to find a better solution – one that the Province can accept.
One suggestion has been to move the Therme development to a more suitable location in Toronto, such as nearby Exhibition Place. Let’s push for those wanting our vote to do just that.
Ontario Place was conceived as a public park and attraction that would reclaim and democratize access to the waterfront and celebrate Ontario’s identity, culture and economic vitality.
The Province’s plans completely undermine that legacy. We should be telling our municipal candidates for Mayor and Council that Ontario Place must remain a resource for everyone.
The Government says it has a new vision for Ontario Place, but what is it? Giving pieces of Ontario Place to three businesses who will charge people for pay-to-play entertainment does not amount to a vision!
If you share our concern about this, here are some things you can do:
A Big Caution about the Survey
The Government’s survey is full of leading questions designed to limit your ability to respond frankly and sincerely. The government has not yet committed to making the results of the questionnaire public.
The questions are written in a way to force respondents to accept the government’s development decisions. It is mandatory to answer all questions. Only three questions have a box where you can provide your own comments. We suggest you use those boxes to enter your concerns. Here are some suggestions:
Question 2 talks about Ontario’s vision and plan for Ontario Place.
Question 3 says open spaces with free public access will be key to the site. Of course, it does not tell you that most of the site will be privatized.
Question 4b asks which heritage features are important for you. You cannot say they all are.
Your voice counts!
Ontario Place for All says the government’s plans for Ontario Place are a total insult to the memory of former Premier William Davis, who opened the lakeside park fifty years ago this summer.
Spokesperson Cynthia Wilkey says when the Ford government first announced its plans to redevelop Ontario Place, Davis said, “It would be a shame and a disservice if commercial gain replaced the public interest on the present site of Ontario Place.” Wilkey says that is exactly what the Ford government has done.
“The public has clearly identified the post-COVID need for more open and accessible parkland, but the Ontario government is instead turning two-thirds of Ontario Place over to commercial interests.”
Ontario Place for All says the plans of the three winning companies, Therme Group, Live Nation, and Écorécréo Group, desecrate the original vision of Ontario Place.
“It was supposed to celebrate Ontario,” says spokesperson Suzanne Kavanagh. “But under the current proposals, we are getting a spa with palm trees, instead of pine trees. There’s also no word on how they are going to preserve the award-winning landscape at Ontario Place. How does this celebrate Ontario?” asks Kavanagh.
Another member of the Ontario Place for All coalition says the government is treating the current facilities, such as the Cinesphere and the Pods, as orphans.
“There is no Conservation Management Plan,” says planner Ken Greenberg, “and no indication about how the new facilities are going to be integrated into what is already at Ontario Place.”
Ontario Place for All says supporters need to get ready for a new and critically important phase of the battle to save the lakeside park. It begins on September 6, Labour Day, with a World Monuments Fund “Watch Day” at Ontario Place sponsored by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and The Future of Ontario Place project. Visitors and supporters will be invited to explore Ontario Place and participate in a scavenger hunt and match drawing of Ontario Place with their memories and hopes for its future. More details can be found at https://acontarionextgens.ca/ontario-place-watch-day/.
We want to thank the hundreds of you who signed on for our online rally last week kicking off the 50th-anniversary celebrations of Ontario Place.
For those who missed the rally or had trouble signing in at the beginning, you can view the entire event here.
Many more Ontario Place videos can be viewed on the Future of Ontario Place YouTube channel.
The government is expected to soon make a major announcement about the future of Ontario Place. Here are some ways that you can help ensure that it is a future that includes all of us:
Ontario Place for All (OP4All) wants to thank all its members and supporters for the important victory they won yesterday – the Ontario government’s announcement that there is not going to be any wholesale destruction of Ontario Place.
Thousands of you joined OP4All in demanding the government preserve Ontario Place’s unique heritage landscape, including the Cinesphere, the Pods, Trillium Park and the William G. Davis Trail.
Yesterday, Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries agreed, and in a White Paper, promised that “key heritage and recreational features will remain, such as the Cinesphere, the pods, Trillium Park and the William G. Davis Trail.”
Bill Greaves, with the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, says the government has come a long way from its “nothing can be saved” talk of 2019. “We look forward to working with the Ministry to develop a Conservation Management Plan to manage change and build on the value of what is already there. That’s what governments around the world have done in similar circumstances.”
While yesterday’s announcement is an important victory, the fight for Ontario Place isn’t over yet.
The Minister says there will be some announcements in the New Year, even though there have been no public consultations on the future of Ontario Place. OP4All’s Cindy Wilkey says it must remain as a park and open public space. “The Minister said yesterday her government recognized the tourism potential of Ontarians’ new embrace of nature and the outdoors during the COVID lockdown. Ontario Place offers an opportunity to capitalize on that momentum.”
OP4All believes yesterday’s announcement was a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. The Ontario government needs to recognize that Ontario Place is an essential public space and that there needs to be meaningful public engagement in determining its future.
Ontario Place for All (OP4All) is calling on the Ontario government to permanently restore swimming at Ontario Place.
OP4All’s Cynthia Wilkey says, “Four beaches were planned for Ontario Place when it opened almost fifty years ago. Now there are none. This is unacceptable, as swimming is not only popular but also the least expensive and most immediate way for people to experience one of Canada’s Great Lakes.”
Ontario Place for All believes COVID-19 has made it even more urgent to preserve Ontario Place as a park and open public space. While most amusement facilities were shuttered, hundreds of thousands of people continued to flock to Ontario Place, enjoying everything the park offers. Many of them swam at the beach on the West Island this summer, even though it is not an authorized swimming area.
Some were still swimming there until almost two weeks ago when Steve Mann and six friends were told the beach on the West Island was closed off for a film shoot. “I was shocked to be told I couldn’t go there,” says Mann. “I have been swimming there nearly every day this year, winter, spring, summer and fall. It should not be closed off to the public.”
OP4All’s Suzanne Kavanagh says Ontario Place should not be off-limits to swimmers, as it is the province’s greatest lakeside attraction. “The government should start planning now to restore swimming at Ontario Place not just for next summer, but forever.”
Joe Cressy, the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York), agrees. “Ontario Place is a key part of our community that provides much-needed access for people to the waterfront, for many activities including swimming. With the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we preserve open outdoor spaces where people can exercise, play, and explore safely,” he said. “The beach and swimming at Ontario Place should be open and accessible for everyone.”
Make sure Premier Ford. Minister MacLeod and Mayor Tory hear our voice. Send them a letter, your own or the one available below, demanding it increase the number of beaches at Ontario Place.
Ontario Place for All also salutes Steve Mann and his group, SwimOP. They have done what the government should have and made swimming at the West Island safer by cleaning up the beach and removing old construction debris from the landfill that created Ontario Place.