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Ontario Place to become 7.5 acre urban park by 2017

Posted by Derek Flack / June 26, 2013

Ontario Place RevitalizationOntario Place is set to become an urban park and waterfront trail, Tourism Minister Michael Chan revealed this morning. We already knew at least some of this, but at least a few more details were made public today. Of the 18 recommendations put together through a public consultation process, public accessibility and year-round use emerged as high priorities, both of of which are realized with this plan. That said, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who was expecting something, well, a bit more spectacular. Additional parkland is hardly something to complain about, but when revitalization plans were first disclosed, I recall most people dreaming bigger.

Although decidedly short on specifics, Chan did note that the park would feature 7.5 acres of greenspace and a waterfront trail. Significantly, the plan is to fast-track construction in the hopes of completing parts of the project in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015 (they're saying 2017 for full completion). It's hard to believe that they'd be able to get their act together so quickly — and potentially worrisome that the project could be pulled together with such haste — but one has to admire the ambition.

Chan would not discuss the budget for the project, noting that it was set to go through a competitive bids process, which could take place as early as July. Also absent from today's announcement was mention of the fate of the Cinesphere. You'd think there'd be a way to preserve the iconic structure given that today's plans don't include other structures slated to replace it, but it's unclear whether the 1971 building factors into the province's plans. More details will likely be revealed when a construction contract is awarded.

What do you think of the plans? Are they underwhelming?

Photo by Canuck with a camera in the blogTO Flickr pool



AV / June 26, 2013 at 09:43 am
Thank you for deciding not to build condos here.
Parky Park / June 26, 2013 at 09:48 am
Not underwhelming at all. It's not a casino, nor condos. It's somewhere to spend time outside on the water. What's not to like?
chemical_echo / June 26, 2013 at 09:51 am
Fingers crossed the water park stays, especially after the newest additions never got to be used
milo / June 26, 2013 at 09:52 am
too bad it's not a casino - such a perfect spot for it.
common sense / June 26, 2013 at 09:55 am
This whole setup is designed to help live nation and echo beach expand their foot print ... what is there 50k people showing up july 29 and 30th at $150 a pop? i'd like to see their definition of public space... maybe they can move those overcrowded concerts that take place at fortyork. TURF, riot fest etc down there
Euro Beats and Asian Treats / June 26, 2013 at 09:58 am
Just dont fuking mess with Atlantis.

I love that club.
Liberty Villain / June 26, 2013 at 09:58 am
The Cinesphere is an eyesore and a product of "old-world technology". Tear it down.
4ChanApologist replying to a comment from AV / June 26, 2013 at 10:01 am
Actually, the full recommendation does suggest the land should be used for, among other things, "...(10 to 15 per cent) for residential development with buildings that demonstrate design excellence, sustainability principles and are sized appropriately." It also recommends the city "consider the feasibility of a hotel or resort" and "include space for commerce and business."

Unfortunately the final decision on how much of it ends up as condos/will probably come down to a council decision. I believe Ontario Place is part of Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina, so call Mike Layton up and let him know your thoughts.

You can read the full recommendation here:

Rob / June 26, 2013 at 10:13 am
Don't believe it until it exists.

Being Toronto, it is as likely that this becomes an urban park as it becomes Liberty Village 2.0 with 25K identical condo units and a big box Home Depot or something.
Mike / June 26, 2013 at 10:15 am
Not everything has to be spectacular. I think the people of TO would benefit from revitalizing this space, even if it is just an urban park. Throw in some nice green space, some water splash zones for the kids, bike paths, and even some seasonal commercial space to get treats and snacks. If the designers of the space are attentive to detail, you might get some open green space for small concerts/events.
Rita / June 26, 2013 at 10:30 am
They should keep it a family friendly outdoor space since that is needed in the downtown core. The cinesphere is iconic.. C'mon, it should stay! ..and condos?? Toronto is ridiculed enough worldwide for the number of condos being built in the downtown core especially considering that no new roads are being built causing traffic to become horrendous!
Michael / June 26, 2013 at 10:34 am
You realize 7.5 acres is a sliver of the Ontario Place lands, right?

Great reporting.
Andi / June 26, 2013 at 10:37 am
I am happy that there will not be more buildings put up, we need more nature in the city! A family friendly area to relax and enjoy.
I especially like Mikes idea!
Mr Kanyo / June 26, 2013 at 10:38 am
Just give the cinesphere a power wash, or paint job. It can be cool again! Gotta say though, I was hoping for more than 3 of 39 hectares of green space.
Matt / June 26, 2013 at 10:45 am
Having found Ontario Place to be spectacular as a kid in the '70's and '80's, I want to see "something spectacular" at Ontario Place as much as anyone. But this blog post is a classic example of the Torontonian inferiority / indecision complex that is stalling progress these days: Someone proposes a casino/condo/shrine to conspicuous consumption, and we all cry "give us a park!!". So they give us a park, and we all cry "give us something spectacular so we can be a world class city!!". How about we realize that 1. With the exception of our current Mayor and council's inability to make plans beyond a 6 month time horizon, Toronto is already a world class city. Right now. Just the way it is. Maintaining and enhancing that can only be done with many developments over time - some simple and mundane, some spectacular. 2. A large public park IS SPECTACULAR, no matter how you slice it!
Helen / June 26, 2013 at 10:48 am
Awesome!!!!!!!! Much, much, much, better than a casino.
Reader / June 26, 2013 at 10:49 am
The headline is confusing. Ontario Place is MUCH larger than 7.5 acres. 7.5 acres is basically the size of one of their parking lots.

The plan is to put a small park on the eastern side of OP, where the water attractions used to be, towards the city centre.

The rest of the space - which is most of it - has supposedly not been decided about yet.

My guess is that the rest of the space will be condos and this park will be their dog-walking area.
s / June 26, 2013 at 10:50 am
From what I understand, it's going to be a mixed use area - residential, commercial and parklands. Big deal if they put one or two condos up around there, it would be a beautiful place to live once it's done. That, mixed in with beautiful waterfront parks, some cute shops, a new and improved amphitheatre.. It could become quite a desirable place to live!
Skye / June 26, 2013 at 10:55 am
One of the major problems with Ontario Place, which lead to its downfall, was that it's inaccessible by transit. To reach it, you have to cross through the Exhibition Lands...a winding and confusing trip, especially for a family with kids in tow.

Get a dedicated TTC line from Union Station to Ontario Place...or hey! If Doug Ford is still desperate to have a monorail somewhere, put in one there.

I'm happy it's staying pretty much the same (so far...) but it needs to be made much easier to reach by transit.
Jose / June 26, 2013 at 10:55 am
This seems a little rush. I mean 2017 isn't far from now, and to have some of it done just so its presentable for the Pan AM Games seems stupid.

I feel like this project needs more time and thought and not rushed just to impress some tourists. Let's think Longevity here.
Marc replying to a comment from Jose / June 26, 2013 at 10:59 am
Well people have been complaining for decades that they don't have parks down by the waterfront. How many more decades shall we discuss this?
Malcolm / June 26, 2013 at 11:03 am
Waterfront trails??? Seriously why does our city always take the safe and cautious approach? We had a major opportunity to do something extraordinary - see Chicago's waterfront with shops, museums, concert venues, etc.
Ray T replying to a comment from Rita / June 26, 2013 at 11:17 am
Condos increase residential density and increase the incentive for a much-needed public service in our downtown core - public transport. As such, no new roads are required. Why should someone living in the downtown and possibly working there need to drive?

On another note, I'm glad to see TO adding another addition of green space along the waterfront to connect it to the other parts of the waterfront. I've always felt Ontario Place was a bit isolated. However, I do wish the city would consider something more bold as the size of Ontario Place would really afford the opportunity to do so. Revitalisation opportunities for such a large space don't come around too often...
Jose replying to a comment from Marc / June 26, 2013 at 11:20 am
I understand that its been a while before anything has been done, but to just make movements because of the Pan AM Games seems irresponsible.

Sure, its been decades like you claim, but I just don't want things to be built, and down the road people complain of poor infrastructure, wasted space, wasted potential etc etc.

If the city is going to do something, do it 100% and not so you can impress some athletes who are going to be here for a couple of weeks. This is for the people of Toronto, not those athletes.
Mark / June 26, 2013 at 11:22 am
I don't think Toronto is lacking in places to shops, galleries or concert venues. What Toronto does need is more central green areas to offset the mass of concrete downtown. I'm surprised and relieved to see a plan to address this. Although it may not be groundbreaking in concept, it will be very much appreciated and used. It also will bridge together the waterfront trail and remove the dead zone caused by Ontario Place.
Sandman / June 26, 2013 at 11:35 am
Residential? They're kidding us, right?
Sortedtales replying to a comment from milo / June 26, 2013 at 11:38 am
milo said: "too bad it's not a casino - such a perfect spot for it."

Ya cause when I'm pumping loonies into those slots in those dimly lit halls I love knowing there are islands and lakeshore on the other sides of those walls. It makes me feel better when I go broke at the end of the day.

Luckysod / June 26, 2013 at 11:56 am
An underwhelming proposal for Ontario Place. It begs to be made into a college campus.
Kelly / June 26, 2013 at 11:58 am
Im so excited that this is not going to be a condo or casino! I really hope they keep the Cinesphere, it's such a strong emblem of our city's landscape.
Picard102 / June 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm
Maybe it's the small town northern ontario in me, but I don't see how people in Toronto complain about how there is no "green space" and whine for more. There is more then enough green space in the city.
David replying to a comment from Rita / June 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm
Sorry, who ridicules Toronto for building so many condo's downtown? I'm very in touch with the real estate market globally and I have never heard such a thing. Toronto is commended for being able to sustain the building market, lead the western hemisphere in buildings going up, with some nervous about the Canadian economy relying heavily on the condos. That's about it.

Toronto needs to make this a nice place, with some condos, restaurants on the water and throw some sand over there for a man made beach!
kevin / June 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm
As mentioned in the comments, this report is totally wrong. The announcement today was with regard to a small parking lot, not Ontario Place.
YinJinski replying to a comment from Rob / June 26, 2013 at 01:05 pm
We would be lucky if it is. Liberty Village is the most successful neighborhood in all Toronto with its diversity, low drag on municipal coffers, access for all types of vehicles, wide selection of working and contributing citizens, dense and highly developed space - not endless acres of crappily tended grass and deadly bike-highways like lakeshore - i have not yet seen a day with a pedestrian not hit by a racing or wrong-way cyclist. Also, a whole range of businesses and stores exist in a perfect combination of pedestrian, car, and transit access. Financial sustainability and wide choice of day and night dining and pubs. Retail is big and small. Fantastic if we can avoid the fluffy and fleeting hipishness of Ossington, the boutiqued-to-hell Distillery, the slackness and filth of Trinity park, and pretentiousness of whatever is around cabbagetown or riverdale. This is an expensive north american city not a financially-failing or poseur-driven European loiter 'architectural' space. Financially sustainable (even municipal cost-free) with all day, all season, half business-residential contributions. Gone are the day of the sprawling, free, conserved pro-family and frisbee-friends 'lawn' parks. More liberty village, esplanade, and harbourfront - less christie pits and sunnyside park - and you're right if your a lower-mid-class family or a single under $35k - you may not be able to afford to do it every weekend - this is a cosmopolitan city - living in TO is a privilege, not a right.
robfordscrack / June 26, 2013 at 01:05 pm
could be a cool new area to do drugs. make it happen!
Rob replying to a comment from YinJinski / June 26, 2013 at 01:18 pm
Not gonna take the bait, troll. Nice try.

There is no one on the planet-- aside from silly investors-- who think LV is a good idea. It's a future ghetto.
Finally replying to a comment from YinJinski / June 26, 2013 at 01:19 pm

Couldnt agree more.
sw replying to a comment from YinJinski / June 26, 2013 at 01:26 pm

Tell 'em.
opensource1111 / June 26, 2013 at 01:52 pm
I belive that most families would prefer to have the greenspace - this is because families, for the most part, are not the market for condos. Unfortunately, these projects often rely on the money that comes from development levies to exist. So, one way of the other, there is going to be residential development there. It would be nice to have mixed use residential - combo of condos, townhomes. That way, it doesn't become like a liberty village, which clearly caters to one small demographic - the single or married with zero to 1 child crowd (who don't stay long after their first child).
Atlantis4Life replying to a comment from Euro Beats and Asian Treats / June 26, 2013 at 02:18 pm
pull up the baby blue CRX with hot 103.5 on the tape deck. Momo stearing wheel gleaming in the night.

Danny D wouldn't let Atlantis get torn down buds
iSkyscraper / June 26, 2013 at 02:35 pm
I said it before, and I'll say it again. This is going to end up exactly like Brooklyn Bridge Park or Governor's Island in New York, which is a perfectly good best-practices outcome for a first-class city. Part of the area will become public park (hopefully more than 7.5 acres, eventually), part will host quasi-public events (i.e. the Forum), and part will become pure private development (hotel or condo), to help pay for the public part.

I'll put money down that either Field Operations, West 8 or Michael Van Valkenburgh win the landscape commission. That's who the big boys go to if you want to do it right.
barkaman / June 26, 2013 at 02:43 pm
I really hope the plan can be extended to do something about the massive parking lots we have surrounding that entire area. There's potential for some amazing public space to surround the Ex that is being wasted on lightly used car space. I would encourage them to spend some money on the space as well, and make sure it's done right, this could be tremendously valuable for the city.

Overall it's a good idea, and I would hope that it could coincide with some upgrades to the Moslon Amphitheatre as well as a (semi-)permanent stage at Echo Beach, which is by far my favorite venue in Toronto. The backdrop is amazing.
Steven / June 26, 2013 at 03:15 pm
So in other words , nothing changes - Go back to 1975 and it looks the same - Fastforward to 2035, I bet it will look the same. We do NOTHING with our waterfront time and time again Toronto is an embarrasment. Seriously folks, time to look at Vancouver, Montreal, hell even Halifax. We've got NOTHING and no plans in place to so ANYTHING! So sad and realy so typical.
Peter Stern / June 26, 2013 at 03:43 pm
In the list of recommendations:

It states:
"13. Future designs for Ontario Place should explore ways to feasibly include the iconic Cinesphere and pods."

This pleases me. I was hoping they would recommend preserving the Cinesphere and the pods... and it looks like they are.

Is it a "grand vision"? No... not really. But it doesn't need to be. I'm not sure if the place is big enough for something truly grand.

Someone mentioned that these recommendations were designed to accomodate live nation and echo beach expanding their foot print. Honestly, that's fine with me as well. Only real problem is Live Nation is owned by the Evil Ticketmaster. You can't just go to the "Echo Beach Box Office" and buy tickets to some concert without the $12 Ticketmaster fee.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Liberty Villain / June 27, 2013 at 03:18 am
To YOU, it is; to the rest of us, it's the first ever IMAX theater in the world, and it should stay up. Why are they getting rid of this beautiful futuristic set up for boring things, I'll never know.
sw replying to a comment from Peter Stern / June 27, 2013 at 10:46 am
Live Nation actually owns Ticketmaster.
1962silver / June 28, 2013 at 12:13 am
Will be a great park to watch jets take off and land and take in deep breaths of jet fuel. A marvellous afternoon indeed!

Sarah / June 28, 2013 at 11:27 am
Still waiting for a waterfront pier with a ferris wheel, carousel, and vendors for the summer months. Our Waterfront could be so much more than it is.

I hope that in the parks they add in an outdoor fitness area like in Venice Beach. Would be cool for Toronto have an area like this.
Alex replying to a comment from Rob / June 28, 2013 at 02:51 pm
I think you might be thinking of CityPlace. Liberty Village isn't actually that bad, and people can get in and out of it.

All this time and they only tell us about 7.5 acres? Glad there will be a public park there though, and hopefully transit to it is improved so people can get there. I hope they have lots of boat rentals there, canoes, paddle boats, etc. It would be really nice to canoe around Ontario place on a summer day.
Alana / June 29, 2013 at 09:28 pm
Ontario Place could benefit from taking some inspiration from this urban park in Copenhagen:
MarcMobileSales / March 7, 2014 at 07:27 pm
Good post. I am going through some of these issues as well..
Wyeth Tracy / March 28, 2016 at 06:11 pm
Unfortunately,our fair city and the Provincial Government have no vision so any plans for a spectacular rebirth will probably never happen.
What a perfect opportunity to join the out of date CNE with the Ontario Place lands to create a state of the art entertainment complex together with urban parkland and the lake.
Just think of the people it would draw to Toronto and maybe even generate enough money to tunnel under the Gardiner and create a subway line or three.
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