After facing months of backlash, the provincial government has submitted a revised development application to the City of Toronto for Ontario Place.
In a statement issued on Thursday, King Surma, the Minister of Infrastructure, said the changes are the result of feedback the province received from over 9,200 residents, stakeholders, City officials, and Indigenous community members.
According to Surma, the updated development application for the 155-acre site includes roughly 50 acres of free parks, public spaces, and green spaces, as well as an increased number of food and beverage options, activity and play zones, and waterfront programming.
Indigenous “elements and features” will be located throughout the revitalized Ontario Place, and there will be opportunities for education and programming. Surma noted a “key highlight” of the redevelopment will be a modernized marina with opportunities for waterside cafes and year-round restaurants.
The divisive relocation of the Ontario Science Centre is moving ahead, and Surma said the application shows how the new “modern” attraction will be integrated with the Cinesphere and pod complex. Additional space within the underground public parking lot has been allocated for bicycle parking.
The province’s application also reflects design changes Therme Canada has made to its contentious spa and waterpark. Originally announced by the developer last month, the new plan “reduces the overall volume” of the building by 25%. And rather than one 22,000-sq.-m structure, the attraction will be comprised of numerous smaller pavilions.
Therme’s updated design also expands access to the waterfront and increases the amount of free and accessible parks and green spaces on the West Island from 12 acres to nearly 16. Rather than dedicating additional land, though, the updated design turns the buildings’ roofs into several additional acres of public green space.
Also announced last month, the updated plan includes upgrades to the pedestrian bridge that connects Lakeshore Boulevard West and the West Island. Once the Ontario Line subway is finished, in 2031, a new pedestrian promenade will offer direct access from the line’s Exhibition Station to the revitalized Ontario Place.
Construction at Ontario Place is expected to begin this fall, with work to upgrade the site’s existing water, electrical, and gas infrastructure, and repairs to the exterior of the Cinesphere and pods.
As part of the next phase of construction, a “significant amount” of trees and vegetation will be removed from the site. Surma said for every tree that is removed, twice as many will be replanted at a later date. The move was condemned by Ontario Place for All, an advocacy group whose goal is to keep the attraction in the public realm.
“We are breathing new life into Ontario Place, creating an iconic tourist destination that will unite friends and families in Ontario and draw visitors from across the globe for generations to come,” Surma said.
The fate of the province’s revamped redevelopment application now rests with the City of Toronto. Earlier this summer, an environmental study on the redevelopment published by Infrastructure Ontario noted that if an agreement to transfer the City-owned water and land to the Province was not reached, “expropriation will be required.”