Science Centre will be moved to Ontario Place, Doug Ford says
The Ontario Science Centre will have a new home along Toronto’s waterfront.
The move is part of the latest development plans for Ontario Place, which is set to now include 42 acres of public land, an all-season concert stage and a marina with retail and dining opportunities.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said the proposal to bring the Science Centre to the waterfront is part of an “exciting vision for a new and modern Ontario Place.”
“We're building a world-class, year around destination,” he told reporters. “Once you get here, there's going to be so much to do.”
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The museum and educational centre will move to a custom-built facility along the waterfront, with programming also to be held at the “preserved and upgraded” iconic Cinesphere. The actual size of the science centre will likely be smaller than the original building at Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue, officials confirmed.
“(The old building) is a structure that's very old and was designed very many years ago,” Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma said, while adding that the design has not yet been finalized.
“The future Science Centre will likely be smaller than what's existed today.”
Officials say that construction of the new facility will start in 2025.
The government has not said how much it will cost to move the Science Centre or proceed with its plan for Ontario Place.
“Any development that we do, and this included, we're taking care of the costs and we're going to be transparent once we get everything tallied up,” Ford said.
In a video released to reporters by the Ford government touting the new Ontario Place as being a spot where residents and tourists will be able to explore nature and trails, learn at the Science Centre, and enjoy food and beverages.
“Unwind by the waterfront. Celebrate at festivals and concerts. There’s more to come at Ontario Place,” the video says, before going on to say it’s an “Ontario Place that’s fun for everyone.”
A map of the new Ontario Place design was released by the Ontario government via Therme Canada on April 18, 2023.
Ontario Place has been decommissioned since 2012. A proposal submitted by the provincial government in November includes about 12 acres (48,000 square metres) of accessible public space, as well as a “family-friendly” attraction with a wave pool, waterslides and restaurants.
The development has been described as a “mega spa” with a 22,000 square-metre structure that will connect to the west island as well as a five-level underground parking garage.
On Tuesday, the province said the underground parking facility will be “self-financing” and “revenue generating.” There will also be new pedestrian and cycling paths, as well as transit options through the Ontario Line subway that will connect residents to the waterfront.
New conception designs were also released Tuesday teasing different elements of the Ontario Place design.
The province’s plans for Ontario Place, as well as the proposal to move the Science Centre, have been hotly contested by opposition parties and Toronto mayoral candidates.
A recent city report found the design was so big it “overwhelms the public realm.”
NDP Leader Marit Stiles said Monday that moving the Science Centre seems like a “Ford family back-of-the-napkin plan,” adding that the centre is more accessible to some residents where it stands now.
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser, meanwhile, questioned the development plans for Ontario Place overall, saying the “family-friendly attraction” largely benefits wealthier people.
“The premier is hell bent on development, so much so that he doesn't see the big picture and that there are assets, green assets in this province, that belong to everyone and they should remain that way,” Fraser said.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE OLD SCIENCE CENTRE?
The premier indicated that the old Ontario Science Centre will be torn down.
“We are in desperate need of housing,” Ford said. “It's going to be right at the beginning or the end of Ontario Line, whatever way you want to look at it, and we're going to focus on the transit oriented communities.”
He went on to say there is buildable land around the conservation land near the old Science Centre site.
“We want to create as much density as possible,” he said. “There's going to be thousands of units there.”
Advocates and politicians have said that not enough consultation has been done and residents in Flemington Park, near the old centre, will be losing a tourist attraction.
“The Ontario Science Centre is an iconic attraction and an integral community hub for so many communities in the area around it, Bhutila Karpoche, NDP GTA Issues critic told CTV News Toronto.
“Making a decision like this without any transparency or community consultation. It's not the way to go about it.”
Mayoral candidates have also either expressed their support or criticism of the Ontario Place proposal, something Ford said was typical of an election race but not relevant to his plans.
“I always respect that Toronto is the host city but last time I checked on the sign out there it doesn't say Toronto Place, it says Ontario Place.”
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