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What do you think of these new Ontario Place designs?

Posted by Chris Bateman / January 23, 2014

toronto ontario placeThe first landscape architects' plans for a tiny slice of the former Ontario Place land have been released to the public, and the province wants your advice about how to proceed.

Designers LANDInc and West 8 have been working for more than a year to produce a near-complete blueprint that promises to turn a derelict stretch of prime waterfront land into a 7.5 acre green space tied to the waterfront cycling trail. There will be rocks, trees, and sculptures, the team says.

Ontario Place, with its famous Cinesphere and Ed Zeidler-designed floating pods, closed permanently in early 2012 following several years of declining attendance and escalating costs. John Tory, the chair of the revitalization panel charged with repurposing the land, promised "a state of the art public park" by 2017 shortly after the announcement.

toronto ontario placeRight now the stretch of land in question is an apocalyptic wasteland of concrete and scrubby grass with expansive views of downtown, Billy Bishop airport, and the Toronto Islands. It was last used for parking and storage when the waterfront attraction was still operating.

The new park will be divided into two rough areas: upper and lower. Higher elevations will be devoted to forestry and trails while areas closer to the water will be home to lawns, programming space, and even a "romantic garden" with neatly landscaped rocks. A looping multi-use trail will tie both areas together.

toronto ontario placeThe final design that incorporates the results of a public survey is due to be unveiled in the summer. This particular piece of the larger Ontario Place revitalization is due to be finished by 2015.

What do you think of the concept? Does the proposed park make the most of the land? Are you pleased the province is committed to making the offshore islands a natural space?


toronto ontario placeA small portion of land at the extreme east end of the Ontario Place islands will be landscaped
toronto ontario placeA view of the lower part of the trail near the water
toronto ontario placeHigher elevations will deliver expansive views over Lake Ontario
ontario placeAccessibility to the water is the key component of the plan

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.



gr8wheelss / January 23, 2014 at 07:07 am
They forgot to include all the Canada Geese in these photos. They will make these free grazing goose grasslands uninhabitable for humans. Long live #goose sh*t! This area really is a buffer zone to hide the rest of the re-purposed Ontario Place. Why not release all of the plans and not just 2% of the lands under re-development?
bmo field / January 23, 2014 at 07:30 am
I'm sorry but when did BMO field get built onto Lakeshore Ave?
it would be nice... / January 23, 2014 at 07:48 am
...if the waterfront itself was accessible. Maybe if there were a few areas where you can access the water without having to scale boulders. Install a cut or two down to a small sandy area. Heck, spend a bit of money and fence off a 100m wide by 25m stretch of the water itself and make it a lakeside wading area that is safe from boating traffic.
ex stadium? / January 23, 2014 at 08:27 am
It's really unfortunate that they used a postcard from the 80s with exhibition stadium in it, especially since the caption on the actual slide is 'The Site Today.'
Jibbly / January 23, 2014 at 08:34 am
@bmo field - That's the old Exhibition Stadium. They used a really old photo. Also note the pleasant absence of CityPlace and most of the other Condos.
George / January 23, 2014 at 08:46 am
It blows my mind that they are using a photo that is over 20 years old.

Gill / January 23, 2014 at 09:07 am
I assume the old pic is meant to show the land in context with Ontario Place when people actually went there.
readandfeed replying to a comment from gr8wheelss / January 23, 2014 at 09:10 am
They didn't forget the geese. They were mentioned as a consideration in planning, lol.
june / January 23, 2014 at 09:14 am
turn it into a beach. way too many "parks" are being built year after year with lots more already in the pipeline. too much parks. not enough waterfront beaches, relaxing destinations.

or build some kind of "touristy" attraction.
Kaya011 / January 23, 2014 at 09:21 am
Why are there no plans for cafes or restaurants where one can sit and enjoy the view of the lake while enjoying coffee, tea or a cold beer?
reallyd replying to a comment from Kaya011 / January 23, 2014 at 09:34 am
No cafes because it's in the middle of nowhere, the park is actually pretty small, so no business would survive down there.
summer / January 23, 2014 at 09:50 am
If they built a cafe, people would come. Personally, I live about 5 minutes away from here, thanks.
It's true that just south of my house is nothing but a wasteland, but it would be lovely to have a cafe to go to with friends or a romantic interest.
I'm not familiar with that particular chunk of land, but I do know that in Ottawa, along the Canal, across from a trafficway, away from the university, walking up a bit from a pedestrian bridge (aka wtf middle-of-nowhere), in a grassy knoll is a cafe that serves lunch and coffee. It made its own little raised deck because it's slopey there and it's an excellent spot, quiet, overlooking the Canal. It makes a great place to rest if you walk from up by Parliament or from down by Dow's Lake.
When I visited the Boboli Gardens in Italy, it was also disappointing that the cafe had been taken out. It had been on a higher elevation and, when they closed the Gardens to make them pay-only, not public access, had to close the cafe because of declining revenues.
Still, there was nowhere inside the "confines" of the garden where you could get water, pee, anything like that.

I would argue for tiny cafes over no cafes. At the very least, somewhere to get liquid and relieve yourself. It'd be nice to have chairs, even if they're fold up and outside the physical building of the cafe.

Guess we'll wait and see what the rest of the plan looks like.

Also: completely agree that they need more access to the water. Right now if you go down to the parks on the other side of the Ex, none of them has access to the water. It's rocky and then there's a dock. You have to go way over to Sunnyside (near Roncesvalles) to access a beach/get into the water, even though there is park from just near Dufferin all the way over.
Webo / January 23, 2014 at 09:50 am
This (park area) is the required phase so the new (high priced) residential units have an existing park landscape to add to the sellingg points....they built this park because the next thing they will build is the low rise condos etc....what criminals they are with what they have done to Ontario Place and plan to do....
joe scratch / January 23, 2014 at 10:10 am
I find it funny that lots of people sit around and get paid lots of money to come up with a plan to basically add sod to the old Ontario Place. Maybe for a few million more in consulting fees will can get some rocks and more trees. SMH
Terry / January 23, 2014 at 10:25 am
The design concept seems to be: take 1 part Stanley Park, 1 part Muskoka, mix with a dash of California Redwood and a smidge of Hobbit mist – done!
JShaw / January 23, 2014 at 10:30 am
Hopefully the city refused to approve this without a plan for the rest of the site.

Mel / January 23, 2014 at 10:38 am
I miss the old Ontario Place. That retro-futuristic vision that was such a part of Toronto, what's the vision here? Instead of looking towards the future with optimism, people will now wander aimlessly around desolate parks like docile zombies in search of a purpose.
Outsidein / January 23, 2014 at 10:39 am
Sounds great, especially considering how inaccessible the last location was for anyone who lives west of the city. Only problem is that now it'll be inaccessible for anyone at all because the Gardiner and Lakeshore are already being choked by commuters and visitors to the stadiums, aquarium, and exhibition place in that area.

I love the water as much as anyone but Tory needs to focus on transit access before suggesting anything else.
Webo / January 23, 2014 at 11:02 am
Add another new small section of a park that will be private and a part of the new condos that will be built, and this will become a exclusive playground for the residents of the new residential units.....and will be Toronto's next gated community
bobbyc / January 23, 2014 at 11:08 am
It is absurd that this land will lay fallow for another three freaking years. This is going to become another "Waterfront project," isn't it? Twenty years of plans and surveys and pissing money away and all we have is a new half-assed boardwalk at Harbourfront. ha. The only place worse, that I've seen, is the riverfront in New Orleans. But hey, that's only the Mississippi!
g / January 23, 2014 at 11:15 am
I still see accessibility, like many areas of the city, as being a major issue with this site. Transit options are weak and there is not much parking. You also have a lot of events in the area
Yardl / January 23, 2014 at 11:48 am
Brutal. hate it.
Looks like another high-maintenance, high-cost, nowhere-near-revenue-neutral, rape-and-molest-zone, with high drug abuse potential. Really? A huge copse of trees in a crime-ridden city? Can't the dirty-hippies just take a bus 90 minutes outside of the city to get their nature and stars fix? This should be a high-intensity, revenue-positive, multi-venue, lighted extravaganza. That Indie music museum, people have been hoping would pop up at the bottom of Bathurst for years, with dozens of venues, some multi-use res and commercial with maybe a bit of marina - go for a Barcelona look a bit. Build up a bit of a beach. As much as I hate to say it - I guess you could put a light rail line along Lakeshore right into this new Entertainment district to join up to Dufferin Gates, Exhibition Station, from both Bathurst station and Union. Its got to be used and inhabited 24-7 with easy car access and parking. Transit people are fickle and cheap - we need monied folks living, playing, and throwing their ill-gotten cash around - and they drive. This has got to be a destination - even have a direct connection from the island airport. Go big or it'll die again in 15 years dragging millions if not billions with it.
Alex / January 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm
You unpave paradise and put up trees and people *still* aren't happy. Those complaining about "yet another park" just don't get it. You all need to truly experience nature. I think greenspace is under-rated and under-appreciated. :(
Penny / January 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm
It looks stupid. Should have build a Casino there
Friar Canuck / January 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm
@bmo field It didn't. That's an old picture of Exhibition Stadium.
Aaron / January 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm
We have so much underused parkland in Toronto. We have the world's largest urban park (Rouge) and it's rarely used. We have countless, beautiful, blue flag beaches. We have the islands. This needs to be something touristy. Maybe a boardwalk atmosphere. Connect it with Ex Place!
Winston / January 23, 2014 at 01:32 pm
The park is only the first phase of re-development... it's 7.5 acres out of a 155 acre site. The rest of the site is going to be condos and theoretically some commercial and entertainment space too.

And do you think the graphic designers who made the renderings spent a lot of time playing Myst back in the 90's?

Theo / January 23, 2014 at 02:30 pm
Torontonians seem to have a bizarre fascination of planning the city almost Sim City like. There are so many good venues for entertainment or activities in this city that are unused, but people are making a big deal over an amusement park in the middle of the city which people will probably never go to anyway (thanks to Wonderland.)
Simon replying to a comment from Theo / January 23, 2014 at 05:46 pm
Toronto is not Toronto without Ontario Place. My whole childhood, the day I went to Ontario Place was the best day of the summer. I can't imagine a Toronto kid growing up without it. These days though Toronto kids aren't Toronto kids. They're either tranquilized dullards with dumb names or they're kids from Brampton or Scarborough whose knowledge of the city begins and ends at the Eaton Centre. It's sad. The next generation of kids won't drink bubble tea in Chinatown. They won't hunt around Dollarama in Parkdale for cheap knick-knacks and spread rumours about this guy at their school who got stabbed behind the dumpster there. They won't ride down to the Spit on the first warm weekend to check out the views of the city. They won't go to raves. They won't make gimp bracelets at the park and ask the kid who can make the circular one how he works his magic and that kid will give you this look and be all "it's a secret". They won't play musical bikes and a birthday party won't consist of a barbecue at Sunnyside with your friend's 2600 Jamaican aunts and uncles. They won't go to $2 Blue Jays games with everyone at school. They'll... drink a juice box from Starbucks or some shit. Ontario Place needs to be a public space. No condos, no yuppie horseshit, no acres of parking lots. This is our chance to have peace and quiet a 20-minute bike ride away. Please don't ruin it.
Whaaa...? replying to a comment from Simon / January 23, 2014 at 06:49 pm
"No yuppie horseshit"

Actually the thinking that went into the original Ontario Place was kind of Hippie in my view... before the Hippies turned into Yuppies.

Anyway... I'm not a fan of this plan mainly because it really isn't a comprehensive plan. It's just a slapdash, no-thinking change to make it look like they're 'doing something' with Ontario Place.

What is needed is a complete plan for the entire property. Not this bogus proposal that only deals with one section. / January 23, 2014 at 09:09 pm
I hope they include a sandy beach somewhere and they need to have small restaurants with patio's overlooking the city and lake. There needs to be a reason for people to go there. Otherwise its just the same as all the other parks.
Theo replying to a comment from Simon / January 23, 2014 at 10:29 pm
I don't really disagree with any of that, but cities do have to evolve.
Clara / January 23, 2014 at 10:30 pm
What the heck is this?? This is suppose to be their grand opening? I will forever be distraught that they shut down Ontario Place the way they did, especially after renovating the water park that only was in use for one year! They complained about low attendance, but did nothing to help Ontario Place be accessible. Had they fixed that problem it would have picked up for sure. These plans are nothing!! There's nothing there at all!! I am so annoyed! I took my daughters to Ontario Place every summer. We practically lived our summers there. We all bought the seasons pass and would walk from Queen St. West to the park almost every day. It was more reasonable than going to Wonderland, not to mention closer. My parents took us to the park often when I was a child. I still have old photos of us there. This area should have been deemed a heritage landmark. Now it's going to be nothing. It is absolutely heartbreaking to me and my girls.
John Oyston / January 24, 2014 at 01:37 pm
It would be great if the site reflected the beauty of Ontario's native plants and provided samples of different types of habitat. There should be a small wetland and a prairie. there is no need for acres of lawn, there is a grassy park nearby.
MH / January 24, 2014 at 01:48 pm
A correction to the article : Eberhard (Eb) not Edward (Ed) Zeidler was the architect of the pods…it was also his ingenious idea to create the breakwater that protects the islands (and keeps the pods standing) by sinking three scrapped Great Lakes freighters.

This new proposal is, by contrast, bland to the extreme. Shall we all drive to Ontario place to walk, sit, and stare? Or will we just continue doing that in the streets and parks of our own neighbourhoods and leave this place to the geese? Toronto should learn from NYC, which had it's fill of false pastoralism decades ago, and has opted for public spaces that respond to more than just our desire to chill within the trees. Give us a reason.
John Oyston / January 25, 2014 at 09:07 pm
There is a group of native plant enthusiasts who think that the plan would be improved by the addition of more native plants, to create a variety of habitats for birds, butterflies and other pollinators, and to showcase the beauty of Ontario's own native plants.
NoJetsTO / January 28, 2014 at 03:27 pm
Yeah it will be great with screeching jets overhead every 10 minutes. Sarcasm for those who didn’t get it. NoJetsTO
Exclusive / March 19, 2014 at 01:14 pm
I don't see anything that would attract people. Do something different! Find out what the people want, built it and they will come!
Don Belbin / March 30, 2014 at 03:25 pm
Who the hell are John Tory and dalton mcginty that they can tell millions of trontonians that ontario place needs to close to save a few million dollars ( think gas plants and 1 billion ) . Public lands should not be transferred to well connected private developers . Ontario place was a wonderful summer destination for young children . We need to stand up to these kind of self serving people and reclaim what belongs to us the citizens , it is a crime ontario place is closed , and any talk of condos should bring us out into the streets in protest!'
As for the small park it is welcome , but should not distract us from the overall development , it is important that we as citizens reclaim ontario place and serve " dalton and John ", with their just rewards.It is time for us to stand up to developers, consultants and political hacks.
Honey boo boo / May 21, 2014 at 04:59 pm
Toronto sucks, the only good thing about the city is the bike trails and waterfront. Just like the guy on Tv last week stuck on the gardener, " I only live a few minutes away, but it has taken me 15 min to get here" what a piece of work! Get off your ass and walk,bike or take the transit.
Honey boo boo / May 21, 2014 at 05:03 pm
Although I have heard rumors about a mountain bike park on the west side of Ontario place somewhere? your guess is as good as mine.
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