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New plans for a new Ontario Place

June 14th, 2014 · No Comments

Imagining a green space in the heart of the city

By Samina Esha

The revitalization of Ontario Place is a step closer to reality. On March 19, in a public discussion, Infrastructure Ontario, Waterfront Toronto, and designers LANDInc spoke about the progress of the new urban park and waterfront trail, with the vision of forests, summits, rocky beaches, a fire pit, and a “romantic garden.” The three-hour public meeting was a brainstorming process for the design team to further their vision along with the vision of Ontarians.

In 2012 the Ontario government announced the partial closing and redevelopment of the site. With 18 key recommendations involving a small ecological footprint and future benefits, the revitalization was set in motion.

Aligning with the recommendations, the conceptual design of the park will occupy 7.5 acres on the far eastern end of Ontario Place. According to the collaborating teams LANDInc and West 8, the former staff parking lot and administration area will become accessible to the public. “For the first time in more than 40 years, the public will have access to the spectacular views the site offers of the cityscape and of Lake Ontario in this new green space,” said Morah Fenning, assistant deputy minister of tourism, culture, and sport.

Earlier this year, in a public feedback, the groups leading the development of the park (the province and Waterfront Toronto) were asked for the recognition of local First Nations heritage. The new rendering of the urban park reflects the connection between the people, the land, and native heritage.

At the north end visitors would enter the park through an artificial ravine, and on the rocky walls there will be carvings from traditional First Nations moccasins on a section of the looping park trail that crosses the ravine on a suspension bridge. These carvings would be part of a provincial moccasin identifier project, which marks First Nations sites in urban areas with moccasin symbols.

“We believe the experience and the landscape typologies should begin right there to draw people in,” said Patrick Morello of LANDInc, the company leading the design process.

Other new elements for boaters include a floating dock near the park’s entrance, along with a fire pit at the central beach.

The east end will have access to rocky beaches and benches carved out of stone to provide seating areas along the path.

“The lower park has more of a pastoral setting. This is an area where there are open lawns for passive recreation and activities on relaxation, and its also an area where we will find Rocky Pebble Beach, something reminiscent of some of the shores on Ontario lakes,” said Morello.

The 980-metre multi-use trail will pass through the heavily planted upper portion of the park which contains forests, hills, boardwalk, and public seating. It will offer unique topography to add character, shape, and sightlines.

The park’s central esplanade and programming space will be used for various activities, including festivals, food trucks, and farmers’ markets.

The park’s south end, known as the summit, would be an open space that could be used to host events such as kite festivals and outdoor film screenings. This area would also be the highest point in the park.

With ecology in mind, rare and varied trees would be planted across the park to mimic the panoramic view of the city’s skyline.

The project did have its hiccups; one occurred when an ongoing environmental assessment found minor levels of contamination in the soil a result as the site being built on landfill.

“Studies so far show low levels of contamination on the site, but they’re manageable,” said Serge Chuskeev of Infrastructure Ontario.

Also, parking and accessibility was one of the most talked about topics during the discussion.

“Right now it seems like a long distance to walk to Ontario Place, but with the creation of the park, the north end of the park is a close distance to those parking lots,” said Morello.

While the name of the park is still undecided and the cost of this urban landscape has yet to be revealed, the province is confident about the 2015 Pan Am Game deadline.

“This is an ambitious timeline, but we have a strong plan and we’re on track,” said Morah Fenning.

With numerous feedbacks from the recent meeting the final unveiling is set to take place later this year, in the summer.

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