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'Put a little love back': What's behind the $1-billion Queen's Park makeover


It's an awe-inspiring structure of pink sandstone looming over University Avenue.

But at 130 years old, Queen's Park desperately needs a makeover and the provincial government warns many systems in the building are close to failing.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra has introduced legislation to establish an office to plan and fund a restoration expected to take at least eight years to complete and cost north of $1 billion.

The walls of the 'Pink Palace' conceal asbestos, lead that makes tap water undrinkable, and a rat's nest of wiring in a building where electricity was added last minute.

Clanking radiators set temperatures at either scorching hot or the equivalent of an icebox.

"It has served us very well for a very, very long time," Calandra told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday. "The time has come to put a little love back into the place."

The renovation secretariat will be able to draw on lessons from a multi-billion dollar overhaul of Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

The walls of Queen's Park are seen in this image.

"All of the heritage that is within here is going to be documented, it will be preserved, and this will be brought back to what it was originally, but with modern day safety and security features built into it," Calandra said.

He first came to the Ontario legislature as a political staffer in 1995 and Calandra says he always shows visitors the building's sweeping grand staircase first.

But there's danger in the iconic feature.

"If a fire were to break out here, given that it's all wood...this would put the entire assembly at risk and all the people who work in here immediately at risk," Calandra explained.

A remodelled Queen's Park will need to eliminate barriers for elected officials, staffers and visitors. Going through the main entrance of the legislative chamber requires a three-stair climb. It's another step up to benches where MPPs sit.

The secretariat will be tasked with finding a temporary home for legislators while Queen's Park is gutted. Calandra says that space will likely be an office building of some kind that is safe, accessible, and close to the public service.

The hope is that the current slate of parliamentarians will be the last to sit at Queen's Park before the remodel.

Calandra is excited about peeling back paint to reveal forgotten art and throwing open the doors.

"We can invite more people back into the building and make this the centre of life for the people of Ontario, something that we haven't been able to do." Top Stories

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