Premier Doug Ford is putting the “tired” Ontario Science Centre in its place — Ontario Place.
In a controversial move denounced by many at Toronto city hall, the Science Centre will shrink — with its existing Don Mills heritage building demolished for housing — and be relocated to Ontario Place after 2025.
“All of us grew up going to the Science Centre one time or another. It’s tired,” Ford told reporters Tuesday at the Budweiser Stage, which is also being redeveloped as part of the changes to Ontario Place, the waterfront park largely underutilized for more than a decade.
“So what we’re planning to do is get rid of the old Science Centre, putting in affordable, attainable, non-profit housing homes up there because that’s what people need,” he said, conceding “the square footage may not be the same” in the new science museum.
There’s no price tag yet available for the plan, but the premier said the 1969 brutalist-style Science Centre, designed by architect Raymond Moriyama, would have to be torn down.
Ford’s decision to demolish the building, which has been a Don Mills landmark for decades, is wrong and was made with zero consultation of surrounding communities, said Coun. Jon Burnside.
Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park residents, many of them newcomers to Canada, are anguished at the loss of “a local gem” that provides local jobs and learning opportunities for kids with scant resources, said the Don Valley East representative.
“I will fight to ensure this doesn’t become just another housing development,” said Burnside.
“This area is jammed and we’ve already got new condo towers coming to the Wynford Heights and Celestica sites. Kids are already playing under hydro lines because we have no space,” he said.
While the future of Ontario Place has become a hot topic in the June 26 Toronto mayoral byelection, Ford said the province would be forging ahead regardless of which candidate wins.
“I always respect that Toronto is the host city, but last time I checked on the sign out there, it doesn’t say ‘Toronto Place,’ it says ‘Ontario Place,’” he said.
“This is for everyone around Ontario, we will always respect and we work collaboratively with Toronto. The previous mayor was very, very helpful,” said the premier, referring to John Tory, who resigned in February.
“This is an election, they’re going to agree or disagree. Some of them want little red apple trees going around here and ‘don’t touch anything.’ That doesn’t cut it. This is prime real estate. We need more venues here in Toronto to attract more tourists.”
Mayoral candidate Ana Bailão, whose campaign launch announcement put Ontario Place on the front-burner of the election, wants Science Centre programming moved but the Don Mills building kept and made into a community hub.
Last week, Ford insisted his changes were in the works long before Bailão urged him to move the Science Centre to Ontario Place, freeing up city-owned Don Mills land to build 5,000 homes, including 1,500 affordable units.
Mayoral candidates Brad Bradford, Olivia Chow, Mitzie Hunter, and Josh Matlow each said they would fight to keep Science Centre where it is — and preserve Ontario Place as a park.
But rival Mark Saunders, whose candidacy Ford tacitly supports, said he agrees with the premier that the building should be demolished to make way for housing.
The leaner, meaner Science Centre would be located in a building to be constructed on an existing surface parking lot “as well as in the preserved and upgraded iconic Cinesphere and pod complex” on the waterfront, said Ford.
Along with a year-round 20,000-seat Live Nation-run concert space, there is a proposed private water recreation and wellness centre to be operated by Therme, an Austrian company, on Ontario Place’s West Island.
Queen’s Park is expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a five-level, 2,700-spot underground parking garage for the spa and Budweiser Stage complete with electric bus and vehicle chargers. The government said the parking lot “will be self-financing, revenue generating and will round out and complement the many transit and transportation options,” such as the new Ontario Line subway.
Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma stressed that there would be parkland as part of the reimagined Ontario Place.
“Once complete, the site will feature 43 acres of free public space for everyone to enjoy — that’s seven acres larger than Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park and more than three times the size of Dufferin Grove Park,” said Surma.
“In the future, you will be able to walk on a new public boulevard, stroll along a new pier, relax on a new public beach and play in a new one-acre fountain,” she said.
“Families and children will be able to ride a train across the island, celebrate in new events spaces and enjoy food and beverage accessible all year long. And finally, a new and improved marina will be a lively year round spot to socialize.”
A recent City of Toronto planning staff report highlighted a slew of objections to the spa plan, which would require the cutting down of more than 800 trees.
The community group, Ontario Place for All, blasted the province’s proposal — and the apparent lack of consultation with area residents.
“This is typical of the Ford government; move first, ask questions later,” said the group’s chair Norm Di Pasquale, a long-time NDP activist.
“The utter lack of transparency and consultation follows precisely the same pattern as the process that landed us with a private Austrian mega-spa at Ontario Place that has absolutely nothing to do with Ontario.”
The Science Centre currently sits on city-owned land that the province leased in 1965 for 99 years at a cost of $1 a year.
I got this response when I asked:Sorry, is all of Trillium Park or just this access point ?
X marks the spot, thats the fence line where ontario place gets closed nightly. Good that the west island stays open. The closure there is at the fork in the road concession standSorry, is all of Trillium Park or just this access point ?
Yes, it could be worse BUT it is a great shame it cuts off the through route from Trillium Park to the CNE.X marks the spot, thats the fence line where ontario place gets closed nightly. Good that the west island stays open. The closure there is at the fork in the road concession stand
Looking at the pictures i took earlier, it makes sense lets not have people walking under gigantic cranes