Government reveals 7.5-acre Ontario Place revamp

The provincial government announced Wednesday a plan to revamp an eastern section of Ontario Place with a 7.5-acre urban park that will link up with the existing waterfront trail.

Plan to transform parking lot into 'marquee destination' with urban park, waterfront trail

Falling attendance forced the provincial government to close Ontario Place last year and begin a plan to revitalize the site on Toronto's western lakeshore. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

The provincial government announced Wednesday a plan to revamp an eastern section of Ontario Place with a 7.5-acre urban park that will link up with the existing waterfront trail.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Chan said the repurposed land will be built atop an unused parking lot, providing a green space and trail that will be four times the size of Toronto's BMO Field.

"The site we stand upon today, a concrete parking lot that has been closed to the public for 40 years, will be revitalized, reimagined and repurposed," Chan said at a press conference, adding that the vision is to create a "marquee destination" that would provide sweeping views of the shore and skyline.

The goal is to have parts of the development finished by as early as 2015, in time for the Pan American Games in Toronto. Construction is due to be completed by 2017.

Chan did not disclose a budget for the revitalization project, but he said the government will be accepting requests for proposals from landscaping architects next month.

The province has not revealed what will happen to the remainder of the site, though Chan said the Ontario government remains "committed" to moving ahead with its full revitalization.

Park shut for more than a year

The Ontario Place amusement park has been partially shut down for more than a year, after the government acknowledged it was in dire need of a revamp.

While Ontario Place used to draw 2.5 million annual visitors, it saw only a fraction of those crowds in recent years.

Sixteen months ago, an advisory panel was tasked with examining what should be done with Ontario Place.

Following months of research and public consultations, the advisory panel made a list of 18 recommendations, which included improving transit service to Ontario Place, preserving its natural beauty and making it into a year-round destination.

The panel also called for large portions of the now-shuttered amusement park to be converted to parkland, with private residences, a hotel and a resort complex all pushed as possibilities. The report said the site should be free, open year-round, and protect sightlines to the water.

The plan was to have the new site completed in 2017, in time for Canada's 150th birthday.

The government endorsed the panel's recommendations last summer and immediately began assessing the revitalization possibilities at the site.

With files from the CBC's Mike Crawley