The provincial government submitted its application for the redevelopment of Toronto's Ontario Place on Friday, including in it new design plans from Therme Group calling for more park space than originally planned.
The updated design come after many month of criticism from residents, activists, and politicians alike directed at the province's decision to lease out large swaths of the 155-acre Ontario Place to private companies. Therme Group, the Vienna-based firm tasked with building a $350-M spa and waterpark for Ontario Place, has now committed to building 12 acres of new public space, which will include parkland, a beach, and gathering places.
The updated proposal also calls for a man-made wetland area that will help to manage water run-off into the lake. In a release, Therme Group said the wetland will also "create new habitat for native birds, firs, and other wildlife," which visitors will be able to observe from a new network of boardwalks.
"Therme Canada, our partners at the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, and our consulting partners, have been working for over a year to reach this important milestone and we're excited to be taking this step forward today with the Province," Mark Lawson, Vice President, Communications & External Relations of Therme Canada said on Monday. "Having signed a long-term ground lease at Ontario Place, we are delivering on our commitment to create an iconic, global attraction along with new privately funded and maintained public space that will allow everyone to enjoy Ontario Place year-round."
Therme's portion of Ontario Place, which will undoubtedly be the heart of the redeveloped complex, is intended to be a family-friendly, all-season spa destination, with pools, waterslides, botanical spaces, and sports performance and recovery services. To access the spa, enclosed in a futuristic-looking glass structure, guests will have to pay around $40 for a day pass -- something many have taken issue with.
Co-Chair of Ontario Place For All and former Spadina-Fort York NDP candidate Norm Di Pasquale raised concerns around the fact that not only will large parts of Ontario Place be privatized, but that taxpayers will be footing part of the bill.
"Why should Ontario taxpayers fund a private spa at Ontario Place to the tune of $300M just so we can pay to get in the spa?" Di Pasquale tweeted.
In an Infrastructure Ontario document released last week, the design and construction costs for Ontario Place were estimated around $200M. The additional $100M is estimated for the 1,000-parking-space garage that the province plans to build, but the province has not confirmed that price.
As for what will be made open to the public without an admission fee, the beach, planned for the western shore of the island, will be a pebble beach with an adjacent programming space to allow for vendors, picnic areas, and public amenities like change rooms and washrooms. "Think of it like a new Sunnyside Beach -- right downtown," the Therme news release reads.
And with the entirety of Ontario Place getting a face lift, that includes the bridge to get to West Island. Therme plans to build a new bridge with a wide public promenade that will connect to the Martin Goodman Trail, giving pedestrians and cyclists a seamless connection along the waterfront.
The already existing East and West Headland gathering spaces will be preserved with some modifications that Therme hopes will enhance the areas and allow them to host small concerts, art shows, and other public gatherings all year round.