City staff will look at whether Exhibition Place grounds could be an alternate site for a massive spa and indoor water park proposed for Ontario Place, a city council committee has decided.
Toronto city council's executive committee voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to ask senior city staff to explore the possibility of relocating the proposed Therme Canada spa and water park to the Exhibition Place grounds, including within the Better Living Centre site.
Staff will prepare a "preliminary feasibility assessment," after consulting the CEO of Exhibition Place, and report back to the executive committee's Dec. 5 meeting, the committee decided.
The Canadian National Exhibition Association, however, is opposed to the idea of a feasibility study and to a relocation of the spa and water park on its grounds, calling it a "defective concept."
Darrell Brown, president of the association, said it was a "gut punch" to staff when they heard of the possibility that the Exhibition Grounds at the Better Living Centre would be considered as an alternate site for spa and water park.
Brown said losing 200,000 square feet of "programmable space" would have a devastating effect on programming.
"We are opposed to a feasibility study for Therme on site. We are opposed to Therme being on site in any way, shape or form," Brown told the committee.
Coun. Ausma Malik, who represents Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York, said the feasibility study would be a "first step," but the association would be consulted. She amended her motion to include the association as a "stakeholder" for consultation.
"Through the city's robust development application process and what we were able to hear from staff today, both the public and the city staff have expressed serious concerns about the proposed Therme spa and water park on our waterfront," she said.
"Its scale, impact on heritage landscape, relation to the public realm and enormous new underground parking structure have yet to be addressed and haven't shown that it belongs on our waterfront."
Coun. Ausma Malik, who represents Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York, wrote a letter to council on Oct. 13 to push the idea of a feasibility study that would look at an alternate site for the spa and water park at the Exhibition Place grounds. (CBC)
Malik said alternate sites, including Exhibition Place grounds, were suggested when the public was consulted.
"I believe this alternative is worth considering as an improved site for the water park and spa with benefits to Exhibition Place potentially."
The Ontario government has submitted a revised Planning Act application to the city for its Ontario Place redevelopment project, saying it has made changes to its original plans for the site that reflect feedback from the city, Indigenous peoples and community members.
Austria-based Therme Canada has proposed to build the project on the Ontario Place site. Infrastructure Ontario, on behalf of the Ontario infrastructure ministry, is leading the development application process with the city.
In a statement on Tuesday, the office of Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma said: "The vision to rebuild Ontario Place is well underway, with shovels in the ground to repair and replace the underground critical infrastructure. We've made significant progress on this work so far and we'll continue to work with the City of Toronto to execute that vision."
Coun. Amber Morley, who represents Ward 3 Etobicoke-Lakeshore, told the committee that the city needs to do what works for Toronto.
"I think we've heard very loud and clear from Torontonians about the need for deeper consultation and a better solution because the proposal before us and the vision that the province is aggressively moving forward is not in keeping with what's best for our city," Morley said.
Coun. Amber Morley said at the meeting: 'I think we've heard very loud and clear from Torontonians about the need for deeper consultation and a better solution because the proposal before us and the vision that the province is aggressively moving forward is not in keeping with what's best for our city.' (Michael Wilson/CBC)
Exhibition Place may benefit from move, councillor says
In an Oct. 13 letter to the committee, Malik proposed the idea of a feasibility study that would look at an alternate site for the spa and water park at the Exhibition Place grounds.
"Exhibition Place's vision as an inclusive and accessible parkland and business destination for conventions, exhibitions, entertainment, recreation and sporting events and public celebrations is fundamentally connected to the future of Ontario Place, a treasured green space and site of international heritage significance," she wrote in the letter.
"Exhibition Place may benefit from and provide an improved location for this use due to factors such as proximity to transit, hotel accommodations, parking, existing servicing and other infrastructure," she continued.
The letter goes on to say a preliminary feasibility assessment will allow further feedback from council and the Exhibition Place board of governors, and help to determine possible next steps, including public engagement.
During the meeting, city staff expressed major concerns about the project, including the scale of the water park, the proposed filling in of an area of Lake Ontario and the impact of an underground parking facility.
Staff said an environment assessment of the proposed lake-filling, requested by the city, has not yet been provided.
A view of a Toronto Community Crisis Service vehicle. (Submitted by City of Toronto)
Also on Tuesday, the committee decided to recommend that the city expand the Toronto Community Crisis Service across the city by the end of next year.
If adopted by council, the service would become the city's fourth municipal emergency service. The other three are Toronto Fire Services, Toronto Paramedic Services and the Toronto Police Service.
The service, a "non-police-led alternative model of crisis response," is currently available in four areas of the city as part of a pilot project. Those areas cover 64 per cent of the city and 16 city wards. The service was launched in early 2022 for Toronto residents.
"The 24/7 service provides a response that is community based, client centred and trauma informed, to support non-mental health crisis calls and wellness checks," the city said in a news release on Tuesday.
A report on the expansion will be considered by council at its Nov. 8 meeting.