Ontario Place redevelopment won't be finished by 2017
When province shut down park in 2012, it set Canada's 150th birthday as target for reopening
Ontario Place, the province's iconic park on the Toronto waterfront, remains closed for the fifth straight summer and its promised revitalization is occurring more slowly than originally promised.
When the provincial government announced in February 2012 that it was shutting down the park, it set Canada's 150th birthday, July 1, 2017, as the target date for reopening
Tourism Minister Eleanor McMahon now says that only the first phase of the Ontario Place redevelopment will be completed by next summer.
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"It's an enormous construction project," McMahon said Wednesday in an interview with CBC News. "When you have a project of that scope, when you have something that large and that extensive, it has to happen in phases."
A new park and trail, covering one-quarter of the Ontario Place lands on the eastern edge of the site, is scheduled to be created in the first phase. It's currently under construction, and McMahon said it will be ready this fall. She is not committing to any timeline for the remaining phases of the redevelopment.
"I hope that people will understand that we want to take the time to get it right, rather than rush to get something there that's imperfect," said McMahon.
She promises that when the revitalization is complete, it will not be like the Ontario Place of old.
"Gone are the days where it's a child's amusement park, said McMahon. "When the entire project is open and revitalized, you're going to see re-purposed smaller intimate spaces for concerts and things like that, arts festivals, large scale music festivals with multiple venues, that can occur right across the site."
One such festival that will take over the West Island of Ontario Place in September is called in/future. It will feature installation art, in the manner of the annual Nuit Blanche festival, but also film and music, spread out over an 11-day period.
"We've been really inspired by Ontario Place as a venue," said Layne Hinton, co-artistic director of in/future and the group Art Spin. "A lot of people have a lot of nostalgia for this space. It's always had a lot of magic, so we're excited to create some new magic in September with all the art projects that will be happening."
Still, the lack of access to the Ontario Place waterfront these past five summers has left some Toronto families frustrated.
"I feel that there's something missing in the city because it's been closed," said Deborah Knight. She fondly recalls going to Ontario Place as a child and started taking her son Evan there soon after he was born.
"We used to go there a lot when I was younger," said nine-year-old Evan. "I loved all the rides and stuff."
He said he feels sad that it's been closed, and wishes it would reopen.
For families like the Knights, McMahon has a message: "Bear with us a little while longer. What we're trying to do is take the iconic place that you loved and keep some of that iconic nature but change it, make it a more urban park space that will allow you to access it."