Ontario Place Worth Saving

A fictional image of Therme’s glass structures with pools and palm trees, proposed at Ontario Place. No buildings are transparent. Public space is reduced to a sliver around the 10-acre site.

Toronto is the fastest growing city in North America and has a serious lack of green space. A revitalized Ontario Place is part of Waterfront developments that include parks and public spaces along the downtown lakeshore. It is now in serious danger of becoming a profit-driven destination at the invitation of Premier Doug Ford. What was intended as public space, could now require high-price tickets to enter a massive tropical spa proposed by the Austrian company Therme. It features 10 acres of palm trees and pools under glass. Entry is expected to be $40 plus extras for treatments and services.

The U.S. company Live Nation is contracted to run the upgraded open Budweiser Stage. Frequent concerts would block off a large area to the public that had not bought a high-priced ticket. A third development party, Ecorecreo of Montreal, has apparently dropped out of the Ontario Place bidding. The details of the provincial government’s negotiations to commercialize Ontario Place are not available, since they were made behind closed doors and without public consultation. They were never mentioned in the run-up to the provincial election.

The future of this precious Waterfront site looked very different in 2012, when Mayor John Tory was chair of the Ontario Place Revitalization Panel. He wrote recommendations for bringing Ontario Place into the 21st century with an expanded public park to celebrate its connection to Ontario and the lake. The original iconic floating structures designed by architects Eberhard Zeidler and Michael Hough remained protected. This grand scheme would require public-private partnerships to create a revenue stream to realize the 55-acre park site in the west end of Ontario Place, always with the public in mind. That was then, this is now. Premier Ford has declared John Tory as ‘strong mayor’ with veto power, unless the council vote goes against provicial interests. That makes the city-owned land at Ontario Place easy pickings for the province, whether council likes it or not.

YQNA invited Ken Greenberg, leading urban designer in Toronto and many other world cities, to present the threats to Ontario Place. Here is his gripping presentation, Sept. 13, 2022. He urges the people of Toronto to join the growing protest against the commercialization of Ontario Place. It requires action from people like us, so join the campaign spearheaded by the citizen’s group Ontario Place for All at https://ontarioplaceforall.com to see the multiple ways you can participate.

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