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This part of the proposed Ontario Place design 'overwhelms' public space: report

A rendering of the proposed Ontario Place redevelopment is seen here. (Therme) A rendering of the proposed Ontario Place redevelopment is seen here. (Therme)

Toronto city planners have found some issues with the proposed redevelopment of Ontario Place and say one part of the design is so big it “overwhelms the public realm.”

In a 13-page status report regarding the province’s planned overhaul of the city’s waterfront attraction, officials detailed their thoughts on the proposed 65,000-square metre private entertainment, water recreation and wellness centre.

The biggest issue appears to be with the facility’s main entrance and building, a 22,000 square-metre structure with a maximum height of 26 metres that will connect to the west island.

“The proposed entry building and bridge elements act as barriers, obscuring heritage views to Ontario Place, the pods and Cinesphere and integrated landscape as well as sight lines to water; these detract from the public sense of arrival to the west island,” the report read.

“The height, massing and scale of the main building overwhelms the public realm, heritage features and overall size of the west island landform.”

City planners say the current location of the building on the mainland “prioritizes private uses” and acts as a barrier to non-paying members of the public who wish to access the waterfront.

A rendering shows what Ontario Place could look under a new proposal submitted in November 2022. (Therme Canada)

Beyond that, the report also took issue with a five-level underground parking garage.

The structure “does not prioritize transit and active transportation” and goes against the province’s own policies on reducing car use as laid out in its Provincial Policy Statement.

“The proposed five level subsurface parking structure, surface parking and resultant 2,700 space parking supply does not meet these policy objectives,” the report said.

Ontario submitted its development application for the new Ontario Place in November of 2022 and said at the time that it would feature 12 acres of accessible public space as well as a “family-friendly” attraction.

Three private sector partners were chosen by the province to scale up the project, including Austrian resort developer Therme, Quebec outdoor recreation firm Écorécréo (which has reportedly backed out of the deal), and U.S.-based concert promoter Live Nation, which already operates Budweiser Stage in the Ontario Place space.

In a statement issued in response to the report, Therme expressed gratitude for the feedback and said it would use it to make design improvements. 

Little is known about the total cost of the project, although the government has previously said it expects those partners will contribute a combined $500 million to its construction, leaving taxpayers to cover the rest of the bill.

The project is still in the approvals stage, but once shovels are in the ground, Therme has said it expects to finish construction within 24 months.

In the meantime, the city said city planners will continue to provide feedback on the project to the province and developers which it expects will result in more design changes.

The developers are expected to deliver a resubmission package with those changes following public consultation this spring, with meetings set for April 15, 18, and late May. Indigenous engagement activities will also take place over the spring and summer.

At its peak, Ontario place once drew more than three million people a year to Toronto’s waterfront but it was decommissioned in 2012 amid declining attendance and annual losses in excess of $20 million.

With files from Katherine DeClerq and CP24’s Chris Fox Top Stories

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