After criticism, the European developer submits a new Ontario Place design with more parkland

The European company that is set to build a spa and water park complex at Ontario Place says it has expanded the planned parkland surrounding the facility.Thermal Group

The European company selected to build a spa and water park at Ontario Place says it has listened to local concerns and enlarged the proposed park around the facility by submitting new plans to include about 12 acres of publicly accessible trails and gardens, a pier and a 200m long beach.

The Canadian arm of the Vienna-based Therme Group provided The Globe and Mail with new drawings and designs for the $350 million greenhouse-like complex and park surrounding it. The images come from redevelopment plans that the Ontario government submitted to the City of Toronto on Friday.

The future of the 155-acre Ontario Place site along Toronto’s waterfront — home to an amusement park that was mothballed in 2012 — has been the subject of debate that intensified after the county announced its redevelopment plans last year. Community activists and some local politicians have said it should all be preserved as a publicly accessible park, opposing the county’s decision to lease much of it to a private company.

Previously released designs had given the impression that the public park surrounding the spa complex would be limited to just a six-metre strip. Therme says the planned multi-purpose path, which would connect to the city’s waterfront path, will always be at least six meters wide. But it says the public space around it was always meant to be bigger and has now expanded.

The company says the latest designs show parks and gardens along the path, with the distance between the borders of Therme and the lake reaching 25 meters in many places and as much as 80 meters in others.

In total, just over half of Ontario Place’s 22-acre west island, the company says, will be open to the public, with the company covering the future maintenance costs of that park.

The public lands include a fountain area, gathering areas that Therme’s consultants estimate can accommodate as many as a thousand people, a potential winter skating rink, a new pier where kayaks can be rented, a boardwalk, newly constructed wetlands, and public washrooms and concession stands. on a new beach 35 meters wide and 204 meters long.

Previously submitted plans promised only eight acres of parkland, compared to the current 12, with only about 40 percent of Ontario Place’s west island open to the public. Therme says it shaved 90,000 square feet (about two acres) from the building as part of the revisions to increase park space.

Mark Lawson, Therme Canada’s vice president of communications and external relations, said the company and its consultants met with the Credit First Nation’s Mississaugas, focus groups of Torontonians and city planning officials and changed their plans as a result.

“We made the building smaller and the park bigger,” said Mr. Lawson. “That is a direct result of that ongoing dialogue with the city.”

However, this promised park would largely wrap around the walls of Therme’s facility, designed by Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects. The futuristic structure, with three retractable roofs, will dominate Ontario Place’s west island and dwarf the existing oversized-golf ball-like Cinesphere theater to the east, which isn’t part of the new complex.

Therme says it expects two to 2½ million visitors a year, with as many as 14,000 visitors on busy days for the family-oriented water park and its waterslides, and more relaxing spa and “wellness” areas designed for those 16 and older . It says daily adult admission would start at around $40.

Ontario soon plans to hire contractors to prepare the site for Therme, work that will include remediating the contaminated fill used to create Ontario Place’s artificial islands 50 years ago, as well as installing sewerage, water , electricity and gas connections. An Infrastructure Ontario document puts the cost at up to $200 million, borne by the province.

Therme also expects the province to pay for a large underground parking garage that can accommodate more than 1,000 cars.

In an interview, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma said the province was still “exploring” parking options for the site, which will eventually come close to the new Ontario Line subway – which is not scheduled to open for nearly ten years. year will open. (GO Transit and TTC streetcars stop north of the grounds at Exhibition Place.)

Therme expects to open the first spade for its water park and spa in late 2024, with an opening day as early as 2026.

Ms Surma said the new designs address the concerns of the project’s critics. When asked about those demanding the entire site be a free park, she notes that the old Ontario Place charged entrance fees and suggests the plans have been misunderstood.

“I think what was communicated was that it’s just this huge building and nothing else,” she said. “And that’s just not right. Have a look at these wonderful places to walk and sit with your family.

The fate of much of the rest of Ontario Place remains unknown. The government plans to repair and restore the exterior of both the Cinesphere and nearby “pods,” which hang over the water and were designed by Ontario Place’s original architect, Eb Zeidler. But no decision has yet been made about its future use. Ms Surma said her ministry is preparing a business case to be finalized in the spring about the possible relocation of the Ontario Science Center there.

She also said no decision has been made on land further east, where Quebec-based adventure tourism provider Écorécréo had been contracted to build an attraction before pulling out of the project.

Detailed plans for expansion of Live Nation’s existing Budweiser Stage outdoor concert venue in Los Angeles at Ontario Place have also not yet been finalized.

In addition to the park, Therme has committed to covering the costs of rehabilitating and strengthening the artificial shoreline of the West Island, which the company’s consultants say has been damaged by erosion, storms and floods and is reaching the end of its technical life is. The company says it will also improve fish, bird and plant habitats.

The 7½ acre Trillium Park to the east of the Therme site will remain as it is, with trails planned to connect with those running through the new proposed park around the spa.

Ms Surma posted a video on Twitter on Friday, announcing that the plans had been submitted and promising “expanded public space”. But her statement makes no mention of Therme or the plans to expand the concert hall.

Local group Ontario Place For All called on the city to reject the plans, which it says would turn the site’s west island into “a private spa for the wealthy.”

“This is not the vision the people of Ontario have for Ontario’s most iconic urban park,” the group’s co-chair Cynthia Wilkey said in a statement. “It is unacceptable to turn public space into a private spa.”

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