The geodesic Cinesphere could be headed for the dustbin of history.
It might be time to say goodbye to Ontario Place's iconic Cinesphere and pod structures.
Unless there's significant interest from the private sector to retain them, the waterfront landmarks could be scrapped as part of the revitalization of the defunct amusement park.
Ontario tourism minister Michael Chan announced Wednesday that the province has endorsed all 18 recommendations in a report on Ontario Place authored by former Ontario PC leader John Tory.
The Liberal government will now move ahead with the creation of the mixed-use residential, retail, and commercial neighbourhood centred around an all-year waterfront park that was envisioned in Tory's report. A concert venue, hotel, and research institution could also be part of the plans.
But while one of Tory's recommendations was to "explore ways to feasibly include the iconic Cinesphere and pods" in any future plans, Chan would not commit to saving them at his press conference Wednesday. The site will be developed in partnership with the private sector, and if developers see no use for the futuristic structures, they'll likely be demolished.
"Too early to tell," Chan said when asked about the fate of the Cinesphere and floating pods. "We're going to engage the private sector, engage those people with tremendous creativity, talented people, to tell us the design.
"Let those expert people... tell us what to do with that," he said.
It's Chan's preference that the structures be retained if possible.
Rosario Marchese, the local MPP, warns that tearing down the architecturally unique pods and the Cinesphere, which contains the world's first permanent IMAX theatre, would be a major loss.
"When it was built, they talked about it as a wonderful engineering feat. It was a futuristic architectural marvel," says Marchese, the NDP MPP for Trinity-Spadina. "And rather than maintaining that wonderful marvel that we had and building on it, we are in my view destroying it."
The province shut down Ontario Place in February after several years of declining profits at the 41-year-old institution. The government estimated it could save $20 million a year by closing it.
In the coming months, the province will begin phase one of the revitalization process; a $5.5-million survey of the site's land and water that will set the stage for development, after which the government will issue a request for proposals from the private sector.
Chan was vague on specifics of what the final development would look like, but pledged that the natural features of the land as well as sightlines to the water would be preserved, and no more than 10-15 per cent of the property will be used for residential space, as recommended in the Tory report.
The minister said the government would move at "lightning speed" to get the work done. The goal is to complete the revitalization by 2017, in time for Canada's 150th anniversary.
"We're excited, this a proud moment, this is a good day for Ontario," he said.
But Marchese is concerned that the private sector's involvement in the project will mean commercial interests will take precedence over public uses of the park. He believes condo developers will try to take over more than the 15 per cent allotted for residential space.
"They're going to restructure it in ways that will not benefit the general public, families, kids," he said. "This is about opening the door to the private sector to basically do whatever it wants. It's opening the door to the highest bidder."
Councillor Mike Layton, whose ward includes Ontario Place, supports some recommendations in the Tory report but believes the most important piece will be building public transit to the site, which is cut off from the rest of downtown by the Lakeshore thoroughfare and the Gardiner Expressway.
"If they don't [build transit] then we can't put residential units there," Layton says. "There's no way for people to get around."
Layton believes the province should foot the bill for any new transit lines to Ontario Place.
"The city just doesn't have the funds to do it," he says.