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cityscape

Convention Centre Casino? The Latest in a String of Gambling Proposals Unveiled

Oxford Properties proposal calls for massive redevelopment on the south side of Front Street.

A concept drawing showing the proposed redevelopment of the convention centre and surrounding area.

Early this morning Oxford Properties added itself to the growing field of candidates hoping to build a casino in Toronto. Their proposal: rather than putting the casino on the water’s edge as several other plans suggest, build it in the centre of downtown, by redeveloping the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Oxford’s plan calls for substantial changes to the swath of land south of Front Street between Simcoe and Blue Jays Way, amounting to 11 acres and more than seven million square feet of space—a project that they’ve pegged at more than $3 billion. Key features include:

  • a casino that “would comprise less than 10% of the project” and would be paid for and operated by whichever casino operator Queen’s Park selects
  • an “expanded and modernized” convention centre
  • a hotel complex (1.7 million square feet)
  • space for new residential (600,000 square feet), office (2.5 million square feet), and retail (1 million square feet)
  • 4,000 new underground parking spots

The proposal also mentions “a new 5.5 acre urban park connecting the core to the waterfront” but only vaguely—it is “contemplated” but nothing more—and doesn’t seem to be an essential part of the concept. What is essential to the overall project, says Oxford vice-president Michael Kitt, is the gambling. “Although the casino itself represents less than 10% of the project’s area,” he said in a press release this morning, “it is a necessary and essential catalyst for the entire development and is a use that will be complementary to Toronto’s core in the way that we have designed and conceived it.”

In a shot at the competing proposals, Kitt added that “Oxford Place will be directly connected to the city’s existing transportation infrastructure” in virtue of its downtown location (something the Exhibition Place/Ontario Place and Port Lands areas currently lack).

The site as it appears now, via Google Maps.

This, along with many other concept drawings, renderings, and glossy brochures, is meant to entice Torontonians into supporting the province’s plan to increase revenue by putting a casino in the city. It is so far looking like an uphill battle: at a community meeting at City Hall earlier this week, most residents were opposed to the idea.

City staff are preparing a report on the subject so that city council can make a better-informed decision; it was originally expected on October 9 but has not yet materialized. Toronto will need to settle the question sometime in the next few months though: the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has said they won’t proceed without the City’s backing, and they’ve asked for a decision by the spring.

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