Infrastructure Ontario says Science Centre buildings have reached ‘end of useful life’

The Ford government claims it will cost half a billion dollars to repair the Ontario Science Centre for issues that go far beyond the roof. As Tina Yazdani reports, critics aren't buying it.

In response to many speaking out over the closure of the Ontario Science Centre, the province says they have determined that while the buildings are unique, bespoke, purpose-built assets, they “have reached the end of their useful life.”

“The building’s infrastructure is deteriorating and it has been for years. The capital repairs required in this building go well beyond the immediate structural issues with the roof,” said John Carmichael, Board Chair of the Science Centre.

It comes as a peer review of an engineering report that led to the closure of the Ontario Science Centre found that it “adequately assessed the risks” associated with the roofing panels in the building.

The peer review found that immediate remediation was needed in order to ensure structural integrity of the roof.

Infrastructure Ontario also added Thursday that significant roof areas of approximately 24,200 square feet have not been investigated and would require the facility’s closure to complete.

This review comes the day after Premier Doug Ford defended the government’s decision to shut it down and labelled the building as old and decrepit.

The premier said it would be “foolish” to repair the Ontario Science Centre instead of shutting it down entirely due to what the government has called structural issues with the roof, among other problems.

“You’ll fall off your chair when you see all the issues we have down there, not just the roof,” Ford said on Wednesday.

“It’s not as simple as you just saying, ‘Go in there and throw some shingles down, and we’re all done.’ You have to listen to the technical briefing. That place is absolutely just a total mess from top to bottom, to front to back, to every single building — even the bridgeway is closed, the air conditioning is gone. It would be a foolish decision [to repair it].”

Accompanied by the review was an open letter from Ontario Science Centre officials who say they have been touched by the outpouring of love and support and while their mission remains the same, they can no longer complete it in the building due to failing infrastructure.

“For almost 55 years, this beloved building has been a dynamic place of discovery. Within these walls, so many young minds have asked questions — transformed curiosity into scientific exploration and ignited a lifelong passion for understanding our world.”

The statement adds they continue to deliver the science camp programs in a local school and are exploring programming locations for that new location and beyond.

“We will also continue to share updates on the work to design and build the Science Centre’s new home at Ontario Place. Our future is bright, and we are excited for what lies ahead.”

The provincial government has faced widespread criticism over the decision to shut down the Science Centre rather than address the problems while keeping parts of it open.

Jane Domenico, the President of Asset Management and Modernization of Infrastructure Ontario, said Thursday that was not possible.

“We cannot rehabilitate this asset unless the entire buildings are vacant. There is no spot repair that will be sufficient or safe,” said Domenico. “The complexities of this asset are quite unique and are not as simple as just replacing a single panel.”

A deal last year between the city and province to have Ontario take over operations of two Toronto highways included a discussion of maintaining some form of science programming at the original Science Centre site. But Ford suggested Wednesday he was no longer supportive of that.

“It’s the city of Toronto that owns [the property], and anything they decide to do — outside of building another science centre — we’ll be there to support them,” Ford said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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