Therme redesigns proposed Ontario Place waterpark
Therme, along with architects Diamond Schmitt and landscape architects STUDIO tla, have revealed a revised design of their proposed waterpark at Ontario Place, on downtown Toronto’s waterfront. The design was presented at a set of two City of Toronto-led community consultation meetings on September 7 and 12.
According to Therme, the new design includes 15.9 acres of public space, up from 12.5 acres, including 3.4 acres of green roof and publicly accessible parkland on top of the waterpark building. The building itself will be 25 per cent smaller in volume than the original design, which is done by shrinking the height and the scale of the building, representatives said. The new building has an 8.4 acre footprint.
Key design changes include the introduction of a terraced profile along the sides of the facility, which the proponents say is intended to soften the edge between the facility and the public realm, and an entry pavilion which has been reduced in size. The plaza now includes access to a publicly accessible “land bridge” atop a portion of the Therme buildings up to four storeys in height. A series of pathways on the land bridge are shaped like the Credit River, which Therme says resulted from collaboration with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
The proponents say that because the West Island will be expanded with additional lake infilling in their design, the design will deliver a net increase of public parkland compared to the existing West Island.
Attendees who commented at the public meeting on September 7 remained firmly opposed to the development. Their concerns focused on the privatization of the prominent site, the government’s refusal to disclose the terms of the 95-year lease, and the lack of transparency in deciding on the site’s use as a large recreational waterpark, which numerous commentators felt was an inappropriate use for Ontario Place. Several people who spoke at the meeting also expressed concern about the position of the new beach on the West Island. The design replaces the existing south-facing beach with a west-facing beach located near a combined sewer outflow; residents are concerned that the new beach will be in shade much of the day, and exposed to high winds and polluted water.
Opposition New Democrat Chris Glover, who represents Spadina-Fort York, writes that “(Premier Doug) Ford’s Conservatives continue to hide the details of this 95-year lease to give away some of the most valuable public parkland to a private corporation.” The Official Opposition has sent a letter of support for a public request to begin an investigation into a value-for-money and compliance audit with respect to proposed redevelopment of Ontario Place. Glover also notes concerns of cronyism related to Therme Group Canada’s Vice President of Communications and External Relations, who was previously the Premier’s Deputy Chief of Staff.
“We haven’t seen any actual plans yet,” urbanist Ken Greenberg, a member of advocacy group Ontario Place for All, told Spacing contributing writer Ian Darragh, in response to the revised concepts. “These are bird’s eye renderings. The public can’t actually see how the buildings are laid out, how the circulation works. There are some fundamentals which you can’t design around, which are extremely problematic. There’s the 95-year secret lease. The footprint is still the same. About 850 trees will still have to be clearcut for this development. It will take decades to replace those trees. When Ontario Place opened, it cost a dollar to get in. [The land bridge] is not a park. It is a privately managed, accessible open space, on top of an enormous, privately accessed building. To describe it as parkland is really misleading.”
A revised development application is expected to be filed with the City of Toronto this fall.