The Ontario government is contractually obligated to provide parking spots for a private spa set to be built on Ontario Place, according to Ontario’s Auditor General — a revelation that gives new weight to fierce criticism of the project.
Acting Auditor General Nick Stavropoulos examined the controversial 95-year contract the Ford government signed with Austrian-based Therme in 2022 and found Ontario taxpayers would face a “financial penalty” if the province doesn’t meet its parking obligations to the spa.
Under the terms of the lease, Therme is set to occupy the property for 75 years plus a 20-year extension and has been given a targeted construction period of 24 months. The company said it plans to invest nearly half a billion dollars into the crown land including $350 million for the 65,000-square-foot private-access spa and $100 million for the public-access portions.
The auditor’s report, however, uncovered another promise the Ford government made to the company: nearby access to dedicated parking spots for patrons.
“As part of the lease, the Province commits to providing a number of dedicated parking spaces to Therme located within 650 metres of its entrance,” the report noted. ” If the Province does not meet its obligations to Therme, as per the contract, it faces a financial penalty.”
The proposal given to the Ford government in 2023 indicated that the province would need at least 2,700 parking spaces to support the three tenants that would underpin the redevelopment of Ontario Place: Therme, Live Nation and the Ontario Science Centre.
While the existing parking lot on the site can already host 700 vehicles, the Ministry of Infrastructure estimated the government would need to spend another $307 million to build an underground structure to accommodate another 2,000 vehicles.
The auditor discovered that the government’s obligation to build those spaces between 2028 and 2030 is, in part, driving the province’s decision to move the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place.
“The submission proposed that the new parking be integrated with the new Ontario Science Centre building in order to dispel public/stakeholder concerns relating to cost and impact on the environment,” the auditor’s report said.
The Ford government has consistently deflected criticism about the parking structure citing its need to support tourism to the destination.
In late November, however, the government agreed to explore the idea of relocating the parking garage to the ground of the exhibition grounds as part of a new deal with the City of Toronto.