Ontario Science Centre to close immediately after report finds roof at risk of collapsing

The Ford government says in just a matter of months, the Ontario Science Centre will no longer be structurally sounds for the public. As Tina Yazdani reports, critics are shocked by the sudden closure.

By Meredith Bond

The Ontario Science Centre will close immediately after an engineering report found that the roof is at risk of collapsing.

According to the report, the more than 50-year-old building is at risk of potential roof panel failure due to the snow load this winter.

“The latest engineering assessment shows that the roof structure in parts of the facility was built using construction materials and systems that are now outdated and that certain roof panels are deteriorating,” read a release.

The building will remain safe over the summer months with enhanced monitoring to allow for staff to safely vacate the facility.

Infrastructure Ontario will issue a “Request for Proposals” to help identify an alternative location for the science centre as work continues to build the new one at Ontario Place, which is expected to be completed as early as 2028.

Previously scheduled private events will be permitted to occur over the weekend, but the province will be reimbursing any members of the science centre and summer camp participants for 30 days.

The province said it would make every effort to avoid disruption to the public and ensure the Ontario Science Centre can “continue delivering on its mandate through an interim facility as well as alternative programming options.”

They have also identified a nearby school that will house similar programming as an alternative to summer camps free of charge to campers who have already registered.

The Ontario Science Centre first opened in 1969 at the Don Mills location and was the world’s first interactive science centre.

Advocates have been fighting to keep the Ontario Science Centre at Don Mills since Premier Doug Ford announced it would be moved to Ontario Place during the revitalization of the waterfront area.

The new facility planned at Ontario Place is set to be half the size, though the government has said it will have more exhibition space. The current one has “extraneous space,” with long hallways and areas not used by the public.

A business case concluded that relocating the science centre from its current location would save about $250 million over 50 years, largely because of its size.

A building condition report from April 2022 found that the building would face $369 million in deferred and critical maintenance needs over the next 20 years. The report found “multiple critical deficiencies” in roof, wall, mechanical, electrical, and elevator systems, interior finishes, site features, and fire and life safety equipment.

Infrastructure Ontario also ordered the science centre to close a pedestrian bridge connecting the main entrance to the exhibition halls in June 2022 after it was deemed unsafe.

The business case estimated that bridge repair would cost $16 million, but no timeline was ever released for it.

With files from The Canadian Press

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