Ontario Place could get heritage protection
It may have the province in its name, but Ontario Place is Toronto's backyard—and residents of the city want a say in what happens to it.
Hundreds got the chance last night during a public consultation at City Hall, where councillors, civic staffers, community groups and advocates for Toronto's waterfront spent more than three-and-a-half hours hearing 36 different presentations.
New ideas floated for parts of the recently-revamped public space included the construction of an Indigenous Centre, a transportation museum, saunas, a swimming pier and a houseboat community, among other things.
More important to most, however, are the features they want to see preserved—as well as those they never want Doug Ford and his friends to build.
Tensions have been running high when it comes to the issue of Ontario Place's future since Ford was elected Premier last June, and all of the Liberal government's existing redevelopment plans were put on hold.
The one-time city councillor and brother to late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford had famously advocated for a casino and a "megamall" along Lake Ontario in the past, and announced in September that his government intended to "redo Ontario Place and make it the most spectacular destination anywhere in North America to visit."
In January, his government announced that they were accepting proposals for the sprawling site's redevelopment in an effort to "maximize investment" and show the world that "Ontario is open for business."
Toronto was not pleased with the government's move to transfer all of the venue's assets to the Crown for the province to do as they please. Thousands have since spoken out to say that they don't want a casino, they don't want a ferris wheel, and they don't want a sprawling commercial complex.
Cinesphere pin is one I ❤. Like so many, lots of great time spent with family @OntarioPlace. Its future must be as a public space for everybody to enjoy. Subcttee on Ontario Place, now Rm 1 at City Hall: https://t.co/vjCwWh9YhK Join Ontario Place for All: https://t.co/GKmCoqHSLI pic.twitter.com/MDcfEHeKrL— ausma malik (@ausmalik) March 5, 2019
These concerns and many more were brought forward at last night's jam-packed public hearing, prompting Toronto's subcommittee on Ontario Place to move forward with the following recommendations:
Max Beck, GM of Ontario Place in the 90’s and fixture on the art scene speaking now. Says Ontario Place and the Ex must be developed together. Says the Cinesphere and the pods must be preserved. Partner with artists & make something great. Think big and bold, but public. #topoli pic.twitter.com/NJWcWQZ2oy— Ontario Place for All (@ONPlace4All) March 5, 2019
It remains to be seen if making the city's heritage register will protect Ontario Place from being altered, but it would at least reflect how important the space is to everyone who lives here.
"What Ontario Place should be is a public space for all. It shouldn't be a megamall or a casino," said Councillor Joe Cressy at the meeting. "Its future should not be determined in private by Doug Ford's friends."
Cressy, who represents the ward containing Ontario place, was also elected last night as chair of a new Subcommittee on Ontario Place.
"Ontario Place belongs to all Ontarians. We only get one chance to revitalize it and it's critical that we get it right," said Cressy following last night's meeting. "Its future must be decided in public and with the involvement of the City of Toronto. Tonight our Ontario Place sub-committee endorsed a way forward to get it right."
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