More waterfront parkland, rental housing units, and maybe even a new spa.
All while keeping the space public and preserving the distinctive Cinesphere and pavilion pods.
That’s the vision for the future of Ontario Place and Exhibition Place, presented in a new 12 page pitch entitled “OPX” by developer Ken Tanenbaum and urban planner Joe Berridge.
It’s meant as a “conversation starter” for the public, says Tanenbaum.
“All of us as Torontonians have seen effectively years of decay and we have this absolute gem that we need to reanimate,” he says.
“The fundamental piece of this all is that we can’t solve the Ontario Place challenge and we can’t solve the future of Exhibition Place challenge without actually thinking about these two things together.”
Tanenbaum is vice chairman of Kilmer Group, which operates OnRoute rest stops in Ontario and developed the Athlete’s Village for the 2015 Pan-Am Games.
The province will launch a process calling for expressions of interest process on how to reimagine Ontario Place this spring.
Premier Doug Ford’s Ford’s spokesperson Simon Jefferies said the province looks forward to “seeing and hearing a variety of ideas on how to make Ontario Place a world-class tourist destination.”
A key part of the OPX pitch is to enhance Exhibition Go station, said Tanenbaum, so that the site is easier to access.
It also proposes moving Ontario Science Centre and building new purpose-built rental housing on where it is now, as well as expanded convention facilities.
A proposed festival plaza south of BMO field would be big enough to incorporate the CNE as well as other events like concerts and sporting events.
Ontario Place’s pods and Cinesphere would stay but be repurposed as a “a museum-y type space, an innovation centre type space,” said Anna Iannucci, an urban planner with Urban Strategies, and a water-park spa would be added on the east island.
“It’s about keeping what we all love about both Exhibition Place and Ontario Place and just adding more,” she said.
Everything would be fully accessible public space, preserving the new Trillium Park, with parkland particularly concentrated on the West Island.
The plan also proposes a new management structure, Tanenbaum says, suggesting making the province responsible for the eastern economic engine and the city responsible for the western half. It’s currently divided north and south of Lake Shore Boulevard between the city and the province.
Ontario Place was closed by the Liberal government in 2012, but partially reopened in the years since.
At a recent, passionate public consultation, residents suggested everything from a swimming pier with public sauna facilities, to a theme park.
There was a consensus, at least at that consultation, that the unique architecture of the pods and Cinesphere should stay and the land must stay publicly accessible.
Those are elements that Cynthia Wilkey, of the group Ontario Place for All, is happy to see in the OPX vision.
“I think it’s fantastic to get a conversation going,” she said.
“To me, this is the kind of planning that should be happening here, that builds on what’s there, that looks at what we need for the rest of the city. That doesn’t just drop some alien kind of development.”
With files from Robert Benzie
May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11