By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Monday July 30, 2012
Waterfront Toronto is best placed to revitalize Ontario Place
A new proposal to turn the sad and faded amusement park of Ontario Place into a landmark destination with a world-class park and small waterfront neighbourhood is a great idea.
The report released Thursday calls for a mix of parks, a Forum-like music venue, free and easy access to the water, and residences and business in one corner of the islands to draw enough people to the area to keep it vibrant all year long. The report, quite rightly, rules out a casino or a wall of condos that would cut visitors and Torontonians off from the water’s edge.
Unfortunately, this compelling vision put forward by a ontario panel headed by John Tory is just the latest in a long line of reports calling for an overhaul of this dated, provincially owned venue.
Everyone agrees that Ontario Place, which has seen annual visitors plummet from three million to 300,000, could be so much more than it is right now. But politics, funding and sheer bureaucratic inertia always get in the way.
That’s why the entire site should be ontario-place-too-sensible-to-be-implemented’ target=’_blank’>turned over to Waterfront Toronto. That public agency, unlike the city or province, has a proven record of turning dreary stretches of our waterfront into creative, welcoming spaces and balancing the need for public space with some development to help pay for it all.
Indeed, Ontario Place falls right in the middle of the public agency’s mandate to revitalize the lakefront from Ashbridge’s Bay Park in the east to past Marilyn Bell Park in the west. And since it makes little sense to revitalize Ontario Place while ignoring the underperforming city-owned Exhibition Place just a stone’s throw away, its revitalization mandate should also be handed over to Waterfront Toronto.
What’s held back improving both of these places, more than anything else, is that the province owns one and the city the other. For decades, city hall and Queen’s Park have proven incapable of getting their acts together to do what’s right for Greater Toronto residents. It’s well past time for a new approach.
The report’s suggestion that 10 to 15 per cent of Ontario Place be used for private development to help pay for the rest of the project is certain to generate heated debate. It makes good sense but — and it’s a big caveat — governments must still be ready to put considerable funds into a redevelopment plan. If politicians, who feel particularly hard up for cash right now, try to fund the project solely through revenues from private development, the parks and public spaces will become nothing more than postage stamps amid a sea of condos.
Torontonians have seen far too much of that along the waterfront already. Preventing that from continuing, and trying to undue some of the damage, is why Waterfront Toronto was created in the first place. It is uniquely placed to redevelop Ontario Place so that it fits in with broader waterfront revitalization efforts and the city’s needs.
If we continue with the turf-war approach of the past, Ontario Place stands no chance of becoming the family-friendly public destination that it was when it opened in 1971 — and could be again.(Source: Toronto Star)