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Ontario Place: How about an integrated park district?

By July 2, 2019 No Comments
Photo of cinesphere at Ontario Place with CN Tower in background

Accomplished city builder, CBI co-founder and author Ken Greenberg is a member of volunteer-run Ontario Place for All, an advocacy group fighting for the preservation of Ontario Place as a public space as it’s under threat of privatization. He has written about the potential of Ontario Place to evolve into a “Park of the 21st Century.” We caught up with Ken to learn more about this vision, and why people should join Ontario Place for All in its campaign.

CBI: Why is the future of Ontario Place important?

Ken Greenberg: As we all know, we are experiencing unprecedented growth in Toronto, and we’re running out of options for public spaces downtown. Ontario Place — ideally, combined with Exhibition Place — is an enormous resource that we can’t let go to waste. With a little design ingenuity, and not a high cost, Ontario Place could be made part of an accessible park district that serves both the growing populations of residents down near the water, and people across the city — not to mention visitors from across Ontario and elsewhere, in keeping with the original vision for the project. 

CBI: How would you do this?

Ken Greenberg: It’s an expansive, great place on the water, and it’s surrounded by all these new, dense neighbourhoods, like Liberty Village and Cityplace. And yet it’s not easy to get to, and it’s not linked to nearby public spaces such as The Bentway, or venues like musical stages or stadiums. 

But fixing the separations and barriers in the area is not hard. We’ve already got new transit coming into the area, and with a few other ideas — maybe a shuttle, new bike paths, a land bridge over Lakeshore, even water-borne transportation across the waterfront — Ontario Place could be combined with surrounding attractions to be an intuitive, comfortable and easy to navigate public space.

Surely people can embrace this idea, and see that it serves the public interest better as park space than Ontario Place being turned into a privatized enclave.

CBI: What motivates you to save Ontario Place?

Ken Greenberg: Like my fellow members in Ontario Place for All, I feel a passionate connection to Ontario Place that goes way back — as we’re discovering many citizens do too. I still remember the original project and its goals, so I feel a somewhat proprietary interest in maintaining it as a space for all. But I’m also motivated by the potential of Trillium Park, which is spectacular, the wonderful legacy and heritage left for us by architect Eberhard Zeidler and landscape architect Michael Hough, and for Ontario Place to become part of an interconnected network of public spaces in the area.

CBI: What can Ontarians and Torontonians do?

Ken Greenberg: Ontario Place for All is a very active group made up entirely of volunteers, and there are many ways to get involved with its activities. The next item on the agenda is our fundraiser on July 8, which involves an evening conversation with John H. Alschuler, Chairman of HR&A Advisors, a New York City firm dedicated to improving life for urban citizens. If anyone knows about creating new urban landscapes and institutions to benefit communities, it’s him. It will be a great night!

Photo of outdoor pavilion at Trillium Park

Trillium Park Pavilion by Alex Laney. Source: Wikipedia. Creative Commons license.