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Province wants 'big and bold' ideas for Ontario Place, but no casinos
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, May 28, 2019 10:12AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 28, 2019 1:39PM EDT
The province is renewing its call to developers to submit their “biggest and boldest ideas” for the transformation of Ontario Place but has added a new condition - no casinos.
In an announcement outside Ontario Place on Tuesday morning, MPP Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture, and sport, clarified the province’s position on a possible casino on the grounds.
"Our vision will not have casinos or condos included as part of the Ontario Place site," Tibollo said.
The Ontario government starting accepting proposals for the revitalization of the 155-acre waterfront site back in January.
At the time, the government made it clear that they did not want residential development but did not rule out the idea of a casino.
“We heard from the people and we have included that as part of the items that we do not want to see built here," Tibollo said Tuesday.
He said developers who have already put forward applications will have an opportunity to “augment” their proposal based on the new guidelines.
“We will consider a broad range of ideas, from sport and entertainment landmarks to public spaces and parks, recreational facilities, and retail,” he said.
A Forum Research poll released at the end of January found that 56 per cent of Torontonians disapproved of a casino at Ontario Place while just 30 per cent said they supported the idea.
Many Toronto city councillors have spoken out against the idea of a casino at the site, including Coun. Joe Cressy, who continues to raise concerns about how the province is proceeding with Ontario Place.
In a written statement released Tuesday, Cressy said he is “deeply concerned” that the provincial government is “rushing forward with its own plans” without consulting the city, which owns part of the land that will be redeveloped.
“We only get one chance to revitalize Ontario Place,” Cressy said.
Cressy added that the city spent five months crafting its vision for the joint redevelopment of Ontario Place and Exhibition Place, hosting public meetings and consulting with stakeholders.
“Unfortunately, yet again, the province has chosen to turn its back on the City of Toronto,” he wrote.
He called the government’s decision to act “unilaterally” a “missed opportunity” and “not in the best interest of Ontarians.”
At a news conference at city hall on Tuesday afternoon, Cressy said when Doug Ford was a city councillor in 2014, he voted in favour of the idea of redeveloping Exhibition Place and Ontario Place together. He said Ford also supported a request that the province undertake a joint planning process with the city.
“I would ask the premier, what’s changed,” Cressy asked.
Mayor John Tory also expressed his disappointment that the province is moving forward without choosing to redevelop the two sites together.
“It is critical that the City of Toronto is fully consulted and at the table when decisions about Ontario Place are being made – a position I have made clear to the Premier and in separate conversations today with the Minister of Infrastructure and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport,” Tory said in a written statement released Tuesday.
“We all agree that this is great opportunity to create a legacy project on a piece of land that means so much to residents and visitors to Toronto, if it’s done properly.”
Minister says province will work with mayor, city council
Tibollo said that the province plans to work with its partners, including the City of Toronto, during the redevelopment process.
“Ontario Place is what is up for the proposal for development at this point. We can’t dictate Exhibition Place’s position with respect to the overall development,” Tibollo said.
“It obviously makes sense to look at the entire site and we will work collaboratively with the City of Toronto, with John Tory… to find the best, boldest ideas that we can.”
The province is accepting submissions until Sept. 3.
Some community groups have come forward with concerns about the redevelopment parameters set out by the provincial government.
Cynthia Wilkey, the co-chair of Ontario Place for All, said members of her organization are “horrified” that the Ford government has made no attempt to protect existing infrastructure at the site, including Trillium Park and the Cinesphere pods.
Budweiser Stage is the only structure that the province has said must be preserved.
Wilkey, who also attended the news conference at city hall today, said the province has not dictated that the public have “unrestricted” access to the area but is instead allowing developers to control access to some or all of the site.
“Ontario Place is being auctioned off to the private sector,” she said.