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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

LORINC: Ford’s plan for a Mega-Garage at the new Science Centre

Proposed parking facility on Ontario Place grounds — the type of project Infrastructure Ontario has never carried out previously — comes with significant environmental risks and cost


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The Ford government wants to bundle the proposed five-storey parking garage and the relocated Science Centre in a single public-private partnership deal that will see a for-profit consortium design, build, finance, and maintain these two new Ontario Place facilities for 30 years, according to Infrastructure Ontario documents [PDF] obtained by Spacing.

Infrastructure Ontario (IO), which is the agency handling the Ontario Place redevelopment, issued an RFP in July for planning consultants who will scope out the parameters and then oversee an international design competition for the twinned project, which, according to the government’s timeline, will be completed by 2028. The RFP for the entire project is set to be issued next July, with a winner selected in the first half of 2025.

According to a deck presented by IO last July to respondents, the government wants the new Ontario Science Centre to be “a unique architectural and energy efficient flagship facility. The P3 deal includes not just the parking garage, but also retrofits of the Ontario Place pods and the Cinesphere, a new planetarium, “outdoor experiences” and “immersive experiences.”

The ultimate winning bidder, IO officials said in the document, “will not be fully paid for construction work following substantial completion but will be paid in instalments over the length of the maintenance term. Because the Project Co is responsible for the maintenance and performance of the facility for 30 years, there is additional incentive to use high-quality and durable materials that will ultimately benefit both the Owner and the public.”

The original idea behind P3s was that governments could shift project risk to a private sector consortium in exchange for some kind of financial compensation. The deals, moreover, included a return on investment and, in some cases, equity. However, in recent years, as P3s have become more complex, the much touted benefits have become more difficult to achieve, as the much delayed and outrageously over-budget Eglinton Crosstown project has shown.

The five-storey underground garage surfaced as an add-on to the redevelopment only after the Ford government issued its 2019 Call for Development proposals, which resulted in the selection of Therme, the Austrian spa and wellness concern, as the winning bidder. Initial designs for the garage, prepared by BDP Quadrangle, indicate indoor connections to Therme’s entry pavilion, which seem intended to make the facility more user friendly in winter months.

Early plans for the redeveloped Ontario Place have left a placeholder on the space above the proposed garage, which is where the new Science Centre pavilion will be located.

The Ford government hasn’t released cost estimates or a budget for either project, or for the refurbishment of the pods and the Cinesphere. But the total outlay will be in the hundreds of millions, if not higher. With a P3 as part of the mix, the bids will include a return for the consortium vying to win this deal and provisions for the current high-interest rate environment. The contract will also need to include some formula for divvying up potential cost overruns, such as unexpected difficulties in restoring the original Eberhard Zeidler structures, as well as an understanding between IO and the winning bidder about who pays for unexpected capital and operating expenses that may crop up in building a five-storey-deep concrete box beneath the water table.

A search of IO’s project database indicates that the agency has never commissioned any kind of parking garage, nor a major cultural/tourist facility, much less a combination of the two. In that regard, this P3 will be breaking new ground. It seems likely, given the complexity of the undertaking, that the winning bid may be well below the ultimate cost of the project. What’s more, the payment formula proposed by IO is novel, and implies that the universe of potential bidders will be limited to companies willing to stick around for three decades.

photo courtesy of Adobe Stock



  1. What’s the source of the claim that this is “the type of project Infrastructure Ontario has never carried out previously”. They’ve clearly used the P3 and DBFM model in previous projects. They’ve also built parking garages as part of those projects. What’s the difference here?

    Is it Lorinc’s full time job to look for innovative angles to oppose the Ontario Place redevelopment from? Even if they’re just completely made up out of thin air?

    It seems clear at this point that Lorinc and Spacing wouldn’t have been supporters of Ontario Place back in the 60s when it was originally under construction. Complaining about the cost of a man-made island, and wondering about the ecological impacts, and lamenting the loss of our waterfront, etc etc etc. It’s sad to see the lack of imagination endemic in Toronto finally take hold of Spacing too.

  2. Dear Greg —

    I’m sorry you can’t tell the difference between an aboveground parking garage far inland and a parking garage built underground, through landfill, and below the waterline. Maybe hire someone to describe the finer details of the article and topic to you.

  3. Beyond stupid. Massive underground garage at enormous cost) when there is serious concern about getting TTC riders back to public transit to reduce congestion on downtown streets.

  4. Hey Lili — that’s not what Lorinc claimed or wrote. He wrote “the agency has never commissioned any kind of parking garage”. He *could* have wrote what you did, though I still question how relevant it is. You really don’t think they’ve dealt with high-groundwater before? Give me a break.

    Lorinc is wrong, and Lorinc is wrong because he didn’t do even a basic google search. It’s simple enough even for you to understand, dear Lili.

  5. I don’t usually take the troll bait but here goes….. Just Some Guy is blurring all sorts of things together with regards to current opposition vs the original OP development. This stupid jab is just distraction. Ontario Place when it was built was a public entity built to benefit the public, not a private spa for wealthy tourists (financed by gangsters and money launderers to boot!). Ontario Place when it was built created more (not destroyed or flogged off) public and esp. park space. Ontario Place when it was built did undergo pre-requisite envirnonmental assessments (and the very land that it was built out from was already industrial and transportation / development landfill, not natural shoreline, not mature tree’d, albeit anthropogenic, park land). Costs of OP were incurred by the public but so were the benefits enjoyed directly by the public. In this case murky costs and responsibilites are born by the public and in contrast even the purported benefits to the public are at best indirect, think minimum wage jobs for cleaners and part time massage therapists? The public in this case are asked to sign off on losing publicly owned facilities, losing park land, losing mature tree cover, to benefit a single specific developer with direct ties to the Ford camp. In addition it seems not unlikely that deep within the contracts there could be serious long term liabilities that are under-estimated, as Lorinc says see MetroLinx and the Eglinton subway…. This is the type of dismantlement of process and of publicly controlled infrastructure is properly referred to as corruption, but I guess that doesn’t concern Just Some Guy. That’s fine, anyone with two eyes who isn’t in the development business knows what they are seeing. The suggestion that there is some sort of anti-everything bias at play in Lorinc’s critique is just b.s.. This whole thing is such crappy, low quality and blatant corruption, which is what is producing the crappy city we are building on the smoking ruins of a nice city.

  6. This is an auto-generated message for readers to be aware that comments by “Just some guy” and “Greg” are the same person posting under multiple names and emails. Spacing publishes this information to combat the spread of spam, trolling, and organized disinformation campaigns. This user’s comments will now have to go through human moderation.

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  7. Thanks to the moderator for making ‘just some guy’ and ‘Greg’ visible for all to see. These people waste far to much of our precious oxygen and take up much to much valuable space on this plant to be given a voice or opinion.