EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a follow-up on yesterday’s article by John Lorinc about the P3 plans to build a underground parking lot on the Ontario Place grounds for the Therme mega-spa and relocated Ontario Science Centre.
The Ontario NDP yesterday revealed an Infrastructure Ontario document [PDF] that, the party says, offers more evidence suggesting that the government’s selection of spa-operator Therme was “rigged.”
The 19-page deck, obtained through an access to information request, is dated January, 28, 2021, a full seven months before the Ford government unveiled the winners of the Ontario Place Call for Development process, which it launched in May, 2019. It’s clear from the deck that the three winning bidders — Therme Canada, Live Nation and the Quebec-based outdoor activity firm that has since dropped out — had already been selected, and would collectively require 3,150 parking spaces.
The original call document made no mention of an underground parking garage, and that highly contentious add-on only surfaced in November, 2022. At the time, Ontario government officials told reporters and a commons committee that many of the organizations bidding for Ontario Place asked for more parking.
The deck includes the earliest reference I’ve seen to the notion of re-locating the Ontario Science Centre, and recommends “the optimal use of the [parking lots] to protect for future development.” “[The] ultimate vision for Phase II remains unknown,” the document notes, without providing further details about what Phase II might entail.
Besides the murky timelines, the document, which was prepared by two consulting firms, reveals how the Tories have envisioned this massive project. The deck contains several renderings of multi-storey above-ground parking garages, to be situated on the former surface lot of Ontario Place. It makes no mention of transit whatsoever, and acknowledges that “all options are costly…and require trade-offs.”
Citing factors like the high water table and soil contamination, the consultants note that “underground is the most expensive route, and moreso along the waterfront,” although they also said that above-grade lots are “generally not supported on the waterfront.”
IO redacted all references to possible costs.
The deck includes a table comparing five configurations, including three that would situate the additional parking on the CNE grounds (see below). The fifth, which entails more underground parking on the CNE, is rated as least intrusive, and creates “no impact on future development.”