With news breaking that a long overdue makeover for Ontario Place is finally going to happen, it’s time focus shifted to how this fits into the waterfront revitalization plan and how it can change the western end of the waterfront.
The west end doesn’t have the abundant space the east end has but had a fun and unique history with the old Sunnyside Amusement Park. The park was unfortunately torn down to make way for the Gardiner in 1955.
The parts that remain have seen better days and, in some cases, haven’t seen an upgrade since the 1980s.
It’s time for the city, with help from the province, to do a complete update of the west-end starting with Ontario Place and revive the area’s rich history.
This area has a lot going for it. It has a few beaches and parks, the renovated Palais Royale building, the Humber Bay Arch Bridge and part of the Martin Goodman Trail. Unfortunately, all of these feel cut-off from the rest of the neighbourhood even though the area is busy on weekends.
Any redevelopment should reintroduce the beach to the neighbourhood. Longer-term planning would probably see the entire neighbourhood around Jameson Avenue redeveloped much like Regent Park has been and Lawrence Heights will be.
It’s a challenge, especially with the Gardiner and Lake Shore Boulevard in between, but I’m sure something can be done to repair this situation. Here are my suggestions on what can be done in the immediate future.
Ontario Place would be the crown jewel in the makeover. It should offer more open spaces and places to sit. There should be more opportunities to get out onto the water.
Attractions should bring people of all ages to the park to enjoy, not just kids, and get away from some of the Expo ’67 architectural look and design that partly plagues the park today along with high admission prices.
It should also allow for some kind of innovation not seen anywhere else in the city but not become similar to Toronto’s other amusement park, Canada’s Wonderland.
There should be less reliance on driving to get there with beefed-up TTC streetcar services with, at the very least, if it is to be a 365-day-a-year attraction, an extension of the 509 Harbourfront route from the Exhibition to the new park.
The extension of the 509 should extend from Ontario Place further west connecting the beaches and the condos built in the area and eventually merge into the 508 Lakeshore route to Long Branch.
The beaches in the area are, by the looks of it, well maintained throughout the year but could use an update.
Toronto has some recent success with beaches. HTO Park and Sugar Beach are a hit and manage to bring back some of that old-time fun to the beach while maintaing its modernity. Could this not be done in the west-end as well?
Walkways connecting neighbourhoods to the beach could be updated and improved by making it easier for people to walk or bike over to the beach.
The smaller buildings and huts around the area should be redesigned to reflect the past and tie them into the remaining structures to offer visitors, young and old, a pleasant ‘blast from the past’.
More benches and open areas should be added along with things like bocce and horseshoe lanes.
Ultimately, there are many possibilities to redeveloping this area of the waterfront. I’m only offering one possibility. I hope a new and improved Ontario Place sparks development west.
The opportunity to do this couldn’t be better as the whole city is undergoing a major makeover. It’s time to bring back the history we lost when the city redesigned the neighbourhood for the sake of 1950s and 1960s modernity.