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New Ontario Place design released after public criticism

The developer set to construct a massive private spa and waterpark on the West Island of Ontario Place has released updated designs following public criticism of the company’s original plans.

Austrian-based resort company Therme signed a long-term lease agreement with the province earlier this year in advance of the spa’s construction, however initial design renderings weren’t well received at community consultation sessions hosted by the City of Toronto in April.

[Click here to see updated images of Therme's Ontario Place design]

Therme says that in response to those sessions, and with additional input from other stakeholders, they’ve updated their designs to deliver a “year-round family-friendly destination attraction alongside four more acres of public parkland.”

“The update features new areas designed with input from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) and also incorporating feedback from public meetings, community engagement and City of Toronto planning staff,” Therme said in a press release Tuesday.

“When complete, the Ontario Place public parkland will become the largest public gathering space on Toronto’s western waterfront.”

Some of the changes seem to directly address a number of the concerns broached by residents at consultation sessions; mainly that the spa’s central building was too tall, and that too much public outdoor space would be lost.

“By making the building smaller, and really increasing the amount of public park that it has, we really think that we're integrating with the public park much more,” Architect Gary McCluskie told CP24 during an interview Tuesday morning.

McCluskie, from Diamond Schmitt, and Jeff Craft, from STUDIO tla, are two of the architects on the project. They told CP24 that the new design is something that is more “true to the initial vision for Ontario Place” following the integration of public feedback.

“So we've done a redesign and kind of a rethink based on that commentary,” McCluskie said. “We now resubmit to the city and we'll do another round of public consultation. So absolutely, there's still more room for input and we're really looking forward to people's comment.”

Therme says they’ve changed the design of the proposed structures, creating a “campus-style” building layout. The redesign will also see a total of 16 acres of publicly accessible space on the West Island, more than currently exists there, according to the company.

Therme says they’ve changed the design of the proposed structures, creating a “campus-style” building layout. The redesign will also see a total of 16 acres of publicly accessible space on the West Island, more than currently exists there, according to the company. (Therme)

“The design that we revealed today delivers the same great waterpark and wellbeing attractions, but thanks to feedback, it has even more open parkland, more natural spaces, more public trails, and more places for people to gather,” said Dr. Robert Hanea, CEO & Chairman of Therme Group, in the press release.

“After this revitalization, there will be more public space than currently exists on the West Island, and we are proud to advance a project that responds so meaningfully to the feedback we have heard so far.”

Therme says the redesign also aims to recognize “the important role of Indigenous heritage on the site,” adding that many of the plans were created in collaboration with the MCFN.

“We are very pleased with the unveiling of the design for the West Island at Ontario Place,” said MCFN Chief Stacey LaForme in the press release.

“Our deep and ongoing partnership with Therme continues to bring us closer to our shared vision for cultural revitalization and place-keeping. We look forward to our continued collaboration and to advancing the design of the West Island in a meaningful and culturally significant way.”


The volume of the main Therme building has been reduced by 25 per cent, according to the company, and instead of a single, large structure, the design is now composed of numerous smaller buildings.

The pedestrian bridge to the West Island from Lakeshore Boulevard West has been redesigned and will now be a greenspace and public pathway, Therme says.

“The bridge and pathway are designed to recreate the path of the Credit River, to honour its significance to MCFN, who have lived and continue to live on the north shore of Lake Ontario,” the release continues.

“This path includes a large new programming space for MCFN to use in traditional ceremonies and other activities.”

The developer says that in total, the updated design has increased the proposed public parkland area by 35 per cent, and that the public pathways on the island have been made wider to accommodate additional food concession areas.

The updated plans also include a “larger rooftop public realm” that will see public park space running over and through the middle of the main spa buildings, providing additional direct pathways to the water’s edge, Therme says.

The southeastern corner of the island has been redesigned as well, according to the press release. It will now feature a “larger gathering space and better protection from the elements.”

These updated renderings come as the province continues to push ahead with current plans for the site, despite protest from citizen groups and municipal leaders.

Speaking to reporters shortly after she was elected as mayor of Toronto, Olivia Chow called the Ford government’s redevelopment plans “wrong-headed” and said she hoped she and the premier could “find common ground.”

“Maybe move the spa to another place… Move it up to (Exhibition Place) maybe,” she said. “Or perhaps even Etobicoke, where there is a lot of open land.”

During a media briefing Tuesday morning, McCluskie said they are still in the midst of showing the redesign to the city. 

"We're at that early stage. We've actually done a couple of presentations of the new design to city staff, we will be making a formal resubmission of this design and that will be followed by consultation with city staff and more public meetings," McCluskie said.

Speaking with CP24 Thursday, Norm DiPasquale of the group “Ontario Place For All” said key problems with the project remain despite the revised design.

“The issues that we raised earlier are frankly still all there in this redesign,” DiPasquale said.

He said the project will impact wildlife in the area and create further gridlock and said it would be better suited to the Woodbine area or to vacant space at the Eaton Centre.

“You know, this will always be a very big cottage on a little island,” DiPasquale said. “No matter how you slice and dice this building, it still has to accept 14,000 people a day. So it just doesn't seem to fit at this location.”

With files from Joshua Freeman and Codi Wilson. Top Stories

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