Province says science centre cannot be repaired without full closure of museum

Province says science centre cannot be repaired without full closure of museum

The province says keeping the current Ontario Science Centre building open to the public even temporarily would still require the “immediate closure” of the facility along with an initial investment of $70 million in “urgent capital repairs” and another $20 to $40 million for “immediate roof repairs.”

Amid public backlash, the province is continuing to defend its decision to abruptly close the beloved Toronto tourist attraction, suggesting that it would cost “a minimum” of half a billion to keep the aging museum open long-term. 

The museum was permanently closed on June 21 after the province said a recent report from engineering firm Rimkus identified a number of roof panels that were in need of replacement at the aging facility.

The report was the catalyst for closing the facility last month, with Infrastructure Minister King Surma calling the deteriorating roof panels a “health and safety risk.”

Staff can remain at the facility over the summer in order to decommission the site by Oct. 31, the province has said.

The engineering report commissioned by the province did provide alternatives to shutting the centre down and others, including the firm that designed the facility, said the museum could stay open and be renovated safely by cordoning off some sections of the buildings.

In an update provided Thursday, Infrastructure Ontario said the site would need to be closed regardless of the course of action that is taken, reiterating that the province isn’t even fully aware of the damage to roof panels as many were inaccessible to the engineering firm that conducted the review.

“In Building A, uninvestigated areas would require highly intrusive access through reinforced concrete which could cause significant impacts (i.e., vibration, structural shifting) to the existing RAAC panels, creating risk to occupants within the building,” the province said.

“A recent roof leak in Building C occurred in an area adjacent to an uninvestigated area, which further reinforces the ongoing risk associated with the unknown condition of these areas.”

The province noted that there is no heat in Building B due to malfunctioning heating pipes, a situation which would need to be fixed before the winter season due fire safety risks associated with “potential for sprinkler system freezing.”

Speaking to reporters at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford called the building “decrepit” and suggested that fixing it is simply too expensive.

“It’s not as simple as you just saying, ‘Go in there and throw some shingles down, and we’re all done,” Ford said when asked by reporters at an unrelated press conference.

The provincial government has issued a request for proposals for temporary space, which those opposed to the closure have labelled potentially more expensive than making the necessary repairs to the current site.

A new science centre is set to be built at Ontario Place but isn’t expected to open until 2028 at the earliest.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Jon Woodward

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