TORONTO, Feb. 5, 2013 /CNW/ - A public meeting Monday evening at the University of Toronto attracted a capacity audience of more than 125 people and imaginative new ideas on the future of Ontario Place.
"Ontario Place has been left behind but we can't go back and re-create it," said Rita Davies, an urban planner and former head of Culture for the City of Toronto. "The possibilities for Ontario Place are boundless but however it changes it must be thoughtfully done."
Monday's meeting at Innis Town Hall presented the recommendations that grew out of a Dec. 1 design charrette at which design and landscape architects, urban planners, futurists and others gathered to imagine what Ontario Place might be now that it has been shut down by the provincial government, and how it may serve the social, economic, academic and cultural needs of Toronto and Ontario.
The December design charrette was organized in response to the recommendations of a special advisory panel, chaired by former Conservative MPP John Tory, which called for the development of condominiums and a hotel on almost half the land on which Ontario Place currently sits. Participants at that meeting unanimously rejected the idea of a casino at either Ontario Place or the adjacent Exhibition Place.
Twelve recommendations for the future of Ontario Place were tabled at Monday's meeting. They include:
- Revitalization must include consideration of the entire length of the waterfront from Ontario Place to the Toronto islands;
- Make Ontario Place a centre for research, innovation, conferences and entrepreneurship;
- Create three nodes of activity (business, culture and natural environment) in a zero carbon community;
- Leverage the architectural heritage of the current site;
- Restore the original Forum amphitheatre and make Ontario Place a hub for music entertainment;
- Bring Toronto's passion for food from all cultures to Ontario Place;
- Stop planning for a casino at Exhibition Place;
- Connect Exhibition Place and adjacent neighbourhoods like Liberty Village to Ontario Place through improved public transit, cycling and pedestrian pathways;
- Engage neighbourhoods to the north of Exhibition Place to Ontario by inviting residents to become involved in future planning of both sites;
- Re-establish Ontario Place as a gateway to the city and create a softer relationship with the waterfront;
- Slow down the planning process for the future of Ontario Place and Exhibition Place;
- Think big and imaginatively and pay close attention to the long-term economic impact of reinventing Ontario Place as an iconic public space.
Monday's meeting featured a total of seven expert panelists. They unanimously agreed that improving public transit to the site is imperative to re-developing Ontario Place as a public space.
"In all the talk about transforming the place (by the government) where is there any mention of public transit. I don't go there because I can't get there by transit," said one of the panelists, Toronto Star urban affairs columnist Chistopher Hume. He also told the audience that the redevelopment of Ontario Place should be taken out of the hands of Queen's Park and the city and be left with Waterfront Toronto, the public agency responsible for the future planning of the lakefront.
The December design charrette and last night's meeting were organized by the Martin Prosperity Institute (University of Toronto), the Design Industry Advisory Committee and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
"We're in it for the long haul," said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "Whatever final form it takes Ontario Place must be a place for all the people of Ontario and not just for John Tory and his Bay Street friends."
A final report from the design charrette will be released to the public shortly.
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