2: Environmental Assessment and public realm design process

What is an Environmental Assessment?

An Environmental Assessment (EA) is the provincial planning process for public infrastructure projects in Ontario. EAs are governed by the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act.

EAs provide a framework for assessing the impacts of a project on the natural, socio-economic and cultural environments. Decision making and project outcomes are influenced by feedback provided by the public, stakeholders and Indigenous communities.

What is a Class EA?

Class EAs set out a standardized and streamlined planning process for activities that are carried out routinely and have predictable environmental effects that can be readily managed.

A family of swans in a pond.

What EA process applies to the Ontario Place redevelopment?

The Public Work Class EA is the Class EA that will be followed for the Ontario Place redevelopment project. It focuses on provincial government realty and infrastructure projects.

Who is the proponent?

The Ministry of Heritage, Sports, Tourism, and Culture Industries (MHSTCI).

What is the project area?

The Class EA project area is defined as the area where government-led activities will occur as shown on the map. 

  • Site preparations will take place across the entire Ontario Place site.
  • Public realm design will address areas outside of the lands that will be tenanted such as open space, parks, trails, and landscaping. The design will also consider the transition between these areas and the publicly accessible lands being developed by the tenants.  

What activities are included in the Class EA?

  • Planning approvals and realty activities 
  • Building decommissioning and removal 
  • Grading and landscaping 
  • Design and development of parks, trails, and open spaces (public realm) 
  • Shoreline repairs and flood mitigation 
  • Site access and parking 
  • Construction of new buildings and supporting site infrastructure
Ontario Place site map outlining the entire project area subject to the environmental assessment with hatching showing the government led public realm and government lands.
This map is an approximate depiction of the land areas and is subject to change.

Public Work Class EA project

Under the Public Work Class EA, there are different categories of undertakings, depending on the environmental impacts expected. The Ontario Place redevelopment project falls under the Category C process, which is the most rigorous assessment process under the Public Work Class EA

The Category C Public Work Class EA process includes:

  • Identifying the opportunity
  • Identifying ‘Alternatives to’ the undertaking
  • Describing the undertaking, study area and existing conditions
  • Publishing project notices for major events such as: project commencement, consultation events, and project completion
  • Hosting consultation events to seek input on design and design alternatives
  • Identifying and evaluating ‘Alternative Methodologies’ (alternative design options)
  • Completing Management Plans and Monitoring Programs for the selected alternative design option, as required
  • Publishing an Environmental Study Report to document the process for public review

EA as a planning and design framework

By providing opportunities for public engagement and through the assessment of impacts to the natural, cultural and socio-economic environments, the Class EA process provides a framework for the planning and design of public infrastructure.  

For the Ontario Place redevelopment project, this process will guide development of the public realm, including establishing the vision, exploring design options, and developing a recommended design.  

The flowchart below depicts the EA tasks to be completed at each stage of the design development.  Click on a row to learn more about the design phase or EA task. 

Design phase 1:

Information gathering and design inspiration
Information is gathered to inform a “vision” of the future of Ontario Place public realm.

EA tasks:

1. Identify the opportunity
There is an opportunity to reimagine Ontario Place as a world-class year-round destination for the next generation of local, provincial and international visitors.
2. Develop the consultation plan
We have developed a consultation plan to engage with all parties that will go above and beyond the requirements of the Category C Public Work Class EA.
3. Launch the EA
Officially launched March 16, 2022. Click here for the Notice of Commencement.
4. Describe the existing conditions
This includes a review of the existing environment that will or might reasonably be expected to be affected, directly or indirectly, by the Ontario Place redevelopment project.

Design phase 2:

Design alternatives
The public realm visioning will inform the development of conceptual designs. Multiple options will be created.

EA tasks:

1. Identify the alternative methods of carrying out the undertaking (design options)
Alternative design options for the public realm are identified and developed. The development of these options requires feedback and input from Indigenous communities, key stakeholders and the public.

Design phase 3:

Evaluation and selection of preferred design
The conceptual design options will be evaluated and a recommended design option will be presented.

EA tasks:

1. Evaluate alternatives
Evaluation criteria will be developed to rank the alternative methodologies (design options) from “least” to “most” acceptable.
2. Identify preferred alternative
Following the evaluation of alternative methodologies, the most acceptable option (i.e. the preferred design) will be identified.

Design phase 4:

Design development
The recommended design will be refined and confirmed as the preferred design option.

EA tasks:

1. Identify impacts and develop mitigation and monitoring plans
Management and monitoring plans are required if a project has the potential to affect ecological or cultural heritage features. These plans will include a thorough examination of potential effects and proposed mitigation measures.
2.Develop the Environmental Study Report (ESR)
The report is a public record of the Class EA process and includes details of existing site conditions, the evaluation process for design alternatives, and the resulting preferred design. It also provides a record of consultation and how feedback was considered in the assessment.
3. Release the ESR for public review
A Notice of ESR and Notice of Completion will be issued, followed by a 30-calendar public review.
4. Refine the ESR as required
The ESR will be updated based on input received during the 30-day review period.

Design phase 5:

Detailed design
Detailed plans, specifications, and estimates are created for the refined design.

EA tasks:

1. Project implementation
The Environmental Assessment has been completed and the project can proceed to construction.

Study milestones


Indigenous consultation and engagement will continue through the EA process


Information sharing

Fall 2022 online information sessions

Environmental Assessment
and public realm design

lightbulb icon

Consultation event #1

We are here!
EA launch & public realm visioning

architectural drawing icon

Consultation event #2

Fall 2022
Conceptual design options

checklist icon

Consultation event #3

Spring 2023
Evaluation process and recommended design

park bench icon

Consultation event #4

Fall 2023
Feedback and confirmation of preferred design

milestone icon

ESR completion and release

Late 2023


How to get engaged?

There will be many opportunities for you to get involved.

Your input will be used to inform the work being undertaken, including helping to shape the design of the public realm. 

What can you do today?

  • Please provide any new or different information about existing site conditions and key features at Ontario Place by filling in the comment forms at the end of Stations 3, 4, and 5 (Site Conditions).
  • We are looking for insight into the future of the public realm. Please share your memories at Ontario Place and your vision for the public realm at the end of Station 6: The future of the public realm.
  • Please provide any other comments in the general comment form provided in Station 8: Next steps.

What to expect in the future?

Public events are planned for key milestones throughout the project. Please visit the Updates section of the project website regularly for details. 

Two people engaged in conversation, and three others walking along a park pathway.

Previous virtual station

1: A bold new vision