Allow us to take a second to recall that it was John Tory — then a personal citizen working for the then-provincial Liberal authorities — who developed the plan to remake Ontario Place. So when Premier Doug Ford places the plan on maintain, reportedly to return to the drafting board and provide you with one thing new, it’s his outdated rival for the mayor’s workplace, as soon as once more, that he’s trumping.
However let’s additionally recall that it’s referred to as Ontario Place, in spite of everything. The provincial authorities owns the joint, so it’s definitely inside the premier’s remit to muck it up if he likes.
That’s what former premier Dalton McGuinty did when he all of a sudden and unexpectedly shut the place down to avoid wasting $20 million a yr in 2012, eliminating 48 full-time jobs and 600 summer season positions within the course of. And shuttering a number of generations’ value of childhood recollections of journey playgrounds, flume rides, water slides, and quick however spectacular academic IMAX movies.
As Ford lately stated, it was “spectacular again within the day.” Even when it had misplaced a lot of its attraction over time and change into a shadow of what it had been, it was nonetheless tough for many people to see it closed.
Now, six years later, a sliver of the large waterfront website has been reopened as a public park. The remainder of it’s a little bit of an city spoil.
It will be good if somebody received on with the job of turning it into one thing worthy. Worthy of our recollections of the place, for positive, but in addition worthy of the general public actual property it sits on.
A part of the issue with making an attempt to redevelop it as plain outdated parkland is that nobody lives close to it, and it’s inconvenient to get to on public transit, and the parking there’s costly. Parks are actually profitable when they’re full of individuals having fun with them. A park that doesn’t serve a neighborhood live-work neighborhood must be one thing actually spectacular if it will draw folks to it — just like the Toronto Islands, which do have some housing however are extra used as a vacation spot for folks from throughout the town.
Ontario Place isn’t that. Not but. And actually, it hasn’t appeared more likely to change into that anytime very quickly.
So in principal, taking one other look to verify we’re constructing one thing worthy of the location, and that we are able to do it moderately quickly, doesn’t strike me as horrible.
The factor is, it’s unclear what precisely Ford has deliberate, and many people usually are not significantly inclined to belief his instincts. Prior to now, he’s been an advocate of a downtown on line casino — and everyone knows on line casino operators and builders would drool on the prospect of Exhibition Place and Ontario Place as an enormous playing complicated. As a metropolis councillor, Ford was additionally vocal about his eagerness to implement a developer-driven waterfront improvement plan — that includes malls, monorails, and an enormous Ferris wheel.
Now, when you had been going to construct an enormous Ferris wheel as a vacationer attraction in Toronto, Ontario Place is probably not the worst place, actually. But it surely is probably not one of the best place, both.
The hot button is that regardless of the website develops into needs to be a coherent place — probably together with some residential element close by, some industrial improvement or some workplaces, however together with prominently a mixture of sights, options and parkland that may make it a treasure for folks from throughout the town and guests from everywhere in the province.
The earlier plan at the very least made the case that it had developed a coherent imaginative and prescient for the location as a spot. However that plan, offered by Tory in 2012, hasn’t precisely been realized to this point.
So revisiting it, if it strikes a broader reopening again to the highest of the agenda, could also be worthwhile. However not if it means unexpectedly placing one thing there for the sake of doing it in a rush, or as a result of we are able to discover cash people wanting to make use of it for casinos or resorts or one other gimmicky self-enrichment scheme.
We aren’t going to have one other website like Ontario Place to develop. No matter we put there ought to serve generations of residents as a waterfront treasure — because the theme park Invoice Davis opened in 1971 did. It has each a beloved legacy and an enormous quantity of potential to dwell as much as. If we’re going to do one thing with it, let’s do it proper.
Edward Keenan is a columnist primarily based in Toronto overlaying city affairs. Observe him on Twitter: @thekeenanwire