TORONTO - No condos would be built on the former Ontario Place site on Toronto's picturesque lakeshore if the Liberals win the provincial election, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday.
The Liberal vision for revitalizing the shuttered amusement park site includes an "urban park," a waterfront trail, a year-round music venue and an unspecified "cultural attraction," she said.
"We believe that our waterfront should be for all to enjoy," Wynne said from the site in NDP territory, flanked by a team of Toronto Liberal candidates.
The redeveloped site would include bike and walking trails, an urban park completed in time for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, a waterfront canal district with stores and restaurants and a repurposed Cinesphere, which was the world's first permanent IMAX theatre, she said.
The Liberals pledged $100 million for the pre-development phase of the project.
The province closed most of Ontario Place in February 2012 to help trim a $15-billion deficit, saying it couldn't afford to keep the park open. It was costing the Ontario government about $20 million a year and attendance had dropped from 2.5 million when it opened in 1971 to about 300,000 a year.
"It was a pioneer destination at a time when our waterfront, to be fair, was an afterthought, believed only to be useful for industry and factories," the Liberal leader said.
"But times have changed since then and we now realize again the enormous potential of our urban waterfront and the enormous contribution it can make to our quality of life, but that's only true if we develop it responsibly."
The province would partner with the private sector to build a year-round music venue. The Molson Amphitheatre outdoor concert venue currently hosts shows in the summer months.
A Liberal government would also join with the private sector to build "some kind of attraction that is of historical and cultural significance" on the site, Wynne said.
"Can't tell you what that will be, but that is very much a part of the vision," she said.
"I'm not going to pre-empt a process ... There are many visions of what could be here, but we think that it would be a very good thing to have an entertainment feature here."
Various proposals for Ontario Place redevelopment have been floated since its closure, including a year-round waterpark with a retractable roof, a casino complex and hotel — as well as residential development.
A provincially appointed panel recommended in 2012 that a portion — a maximum of 10 to 15 per cent — of the site be devoted to private residences, saying revenue from residential sales could help pay for reconstruction.
At the time, the Liberal government accepted all of the panel's recommendations. But in her announcement Monday, Wynne said there would be no condominiums or other residential development on the site if the Liberals win the June 12 election.
"That is off the table," she said.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath don't appear to have visions for Ontario Place revitalization, Wynne said.
Asked about the park at a campaign event in Mississauga, Ont., Hudak briefly said he was not yet aware of the details of Wynne's plan, then steered his answer toward jobs.
As Conservative Vic Fedeli launched a new party ad Monday, he dismissed Wynne's announcement as "an unfunded election promise."
"It's purely an opportunity to try to buy a seat in that riding, plain and simple," he said of the NDP-held Trinity-Spadina riding.
It's been a battlefield between the Liberals and NDP for years, with longtime provincial New Democrat Rosario Marchese defeating Liberal candidate Sarah Thomson by 1,139 votes in the 2011 Ontario election.
It's among several NDP ridings the Liberals have their eye on, hoping to consolidate their representation in vote-rich Toronto.
Residents in NDP-held Toronto ridings have a lot of questions about why the New Democrats didn't support the budget, which contained many measures that "would have recommeded itself to people who think progressively about this province," Wynne said.
"I would say to those NDP voters to take a very close look at the plan we're putting forward, including our vision for Ontario Place."