Canada

Province won’t say if it will take offers to fix science centre

The province won’t say whether it will take private citizens up on their offers to help foot the bill to rehab the science centre.

Offers to cover the cost of repairs at the Ontario Science Centre came after the province abruptly shuttered the building on June 21. Ontario pointed to an engineering report that showed parts of the roof could buckle as the reason for closure.

Financial offers have come in from citizens to help cover repair costs, including one from AI researcher and University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton, who offered to contribute $1 million.

On Tuesday, John Carmichael, chair of the Science Centre Board of Trustees, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that offers of support are appreciated, but it’s not up to the board to accept them or to decide what happens to the building.

“That will be a discussion that I think, once we get further down the road, will be held between municipal and provincial government,” he said.

He said that while repairs are possible, the extent of the work needed is unclear.

“The problem is bigger than what’s in the report,” he said.

The office of Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma did not answer a question from CBC Toronto about whether the province would accept any help for repairs.

Future of original building uncertain

The province commissioned the engineering report by firm Rimkus Consulting Group. It found parts of the building’s 55-year-old roof are at risk of collapsing under the potential heavy weight of snow when winter arrives.

Since then, multiple engineers not involved in the report have questioned whether those repairs are dire enough to require the entire building to shut down permanently.

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Ash Milton, a spokesperson for Surma’s office, said no decisions have been made on the future of the original science centre, and the province still plans to open a new site at Ontario Place as early as 2028. 

At the original site, Milton said the entire roof would need replacing, along with other outdated infrastructure. He said the estimated capital cost for that work and other critical repairs is at least $478 million.

The province has received offers from private citizens to help cover the cost of repairs at the Ontario Science Centre, which closed on June 21 after an engineering report found parts of the roof in critical condition. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

He said the cost of replacing all panels on the roof alone would run between $22 million and $40 million and take about two years to complete.

The province is currently looking for a temporary replacement building for the centre, now that the original site is closed.

The city is also looking into whether it could potentially keep the original science centre running.

Last week, Toronto council asked city staff to conduct a feasibility study on a potential city takeover, but initial numbers suggest it would cost tens of millions a year to operate, let alone the cost of repairs.

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