Toronto residents bid farewell to Ontario Science Centre ahead of rally

A North York community bids farewell to a neighbourhood landmark. Afua Baah speaks to local residents who say the Ontario Science Centre was more than just a tourist attraction.

By Afua Baah

It’s the first official weekend of summer, but with the Ontario Science Centre closed residents say no one will feel the impacts more than those living right around this community staple.

A local resident still shocked to hear the news said she came to the area to take one last walk around the building.

“So close to my heart and now it’s very, very sad to see this go,” the resident said.

The Ontario Science Centre first opened in 1969 near Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East. It would have been 55 years old in September.

The landmark was the world’s first interactive science centre and was located right in the heart of Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park, which are the two densely populated neighbourhoods now directly hit by this loss.

“There’s a lot of STEM programming, a lot of recreational programming that happens,” said Karma Lhamo, manager of community development and special projects at The Neighbourhood Organization.

“As an underserved community of Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park, this is going to have a huge impact on us.”

Provincial officials decided to immediately close the Ontario Science Centre after citing an engineering report that found the roof is at risk of collapsing.

“This makes no sense,” said Sameer Sayed, a local resident and a supporter of the advocacy group Save Ontario Science Centre.

“The only example I can think of is Canada’s Wonderland. If one ride is not functioning, you don’t shut down the entire park. What you do is you basically isolate that area and fix it, work on it, test it, and then you open it up. If there was a report saying some roof panels required some repairs, you repair them.”

Advocates have been fighting to keep the Ontario Science Centre in its original location since Premier Doug Ford announced in 2023 it would be moved to Ontario Place during the revitalization of the waterfront area. It’s a move that prompted accessibility concerns.

“This location was so strategic, not everything has to go to downtown. I know that for many kids in the neighbourhood, this is the only place they can afford to go to,” said Sayed.

“Right now they can just walk across the street and just get to the programming, but that’s going to be a huge challenge for them,” added Lhamo.

Local politicians who visited the now-blocked-off attraction on Saturday said they are still taken aback by the sudden decision.

“It’s also an architectural gem that has been celebrated over and over again,” said Toronto deputy mayor Ausma Malik.

“It’s not just Torontonians’ eyes that are on this, the eyes from people across the globe are on this really important and precious site.”

Mayor Olivia Chow said the City of Toronto will explore options to keep some programs running.

“We’ll see what we can do to provide any kind of space for [the Ontario Science Centre] at least for the exhibits to continue,” said Chow.

But now that a community hub is no more, residents are wondering where they can turn to next.

“It won’t just affect this generation, it will affect generations to come,” said Sayed.

Chow said she will support a motion coming to next week’s city council meeting that explores the province’s responsibilities related to the Ontario Science Centre.

Meanwhile, a community rally in support of the Ontario Science Centre will be held on Sunday at 12 p.m.

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