Talk is heating up in regards to Ontario Place, the faded iconic landmark dedicated to the people of Ontario. The province is eager to move forward with the revitalization of the site which has stood closed since February of last year, and at the time of its closing, the province appointed an advisory panel, chaired by former MPP John Tory to advise the Ontario government on the redevelopment of Ontario Place.

Aerial photo of Ontario Place

Aerial photo of Ontario Place, courtesy of CBC

In July 2012, the panel published a report with 18 recommendations for the park, most notably the development of condos (10-15% of site), as well as the construction of a resort hotel and a whole lotta parking spaces. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission has also had its eye on the site, targeting it and/or CNE for a potential future casino. Critics' concern is that if the government bases its Request For Proposal on the recommendations put forth, this pristine piece of Toronto waterfront will be sold off to an all-too-eager residential development corporation. A legacy lost.

In reponse to the aforementioned proposals, a group of 40 designers and other creative thinkers convened in December 2012 to re-imagine the future of the site and to develop an alternative vision for the site in a design charrette entitled 'Rethinking Ontario Place' sponsored by the Design Industry Advisory Committee, the Martin Prosperity Institute, and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. In attendance were participants from multiple disciplines, including the park's original architect Eberhard Zeidler, urban planner Ken Greenberg, local politicians Mike Layton and Rosario Marchese, media & communications' Spacing and Azure magazines, and theatre impresario David Mirvish. 

 Design Charrette, TorontoRethinking Ontario Place: Design Charrette

 Design Charrette, TorontoRethinking Ontario Place: Design Charrette

The participants' solutions for revitilization focused on four themes: 1) research and innovation; 2) sustainable development and transportation; 3) arts, culture, sports and leisure; and, 4) local community and national tourist destination. A multitude of ideas were generated from the brainstorming session or 'charrette', including: re-establishing the site as a physical gateway to the city; connecting it to the CNE and adjacent neighbourhoods; or, transforming it into a centre for research and innovation, a hub for a large range of music entertainment, and, a food emporium reflecting the diversity of the city.

The general consensus of the meeting was the need for Ontario Place to remain a year-round public space that meets the social, cultural and recreational needs of all Ontarians. Everyone agreed that its future must be tied to that of Exhibition Place, and that future must include something other than a casino or another high-density residential complex with a sea of parking.  

A summary of the findings of the design charrette was presented to a Town Hall meeting on the future of Ontario Place on Monday Feb. 4 at Innis College Town Hall at the University of Toronto. Click the image below to read through the charrette's recommendations in larger type.

Rethinking Ontario Place Recommendations

The recommendations were read out to the audience by the evening's hosts and expanded upon by charrette members. Four prominent individuals with varying areas of expertise were also asked to comment on the charrette's findings, and of these, Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star garnered the greatest support for his comments: get the transportation to the site fixed, or nothing that happens at Ontario Place will matter much.

Thinking in the long term will require more consideration from creative visionairies to develop schemes that more fully explore the potential of the site. To give back something meaningful and attractive to Toronto, it's also very important to better draw the public into the discussion. You can get involved now: visit the website to catch a couple of films, learn more about the discussions so far, and share your own vision! Begin by clicking here.