GTA investors are offering $1.5 million to save the Ontario Science Centre

A few local residents have offered to personally cover the costs required to keep the Ontario Science Centre open for 2024 after professional engineers found some “serious structural issues” with the building.  The closure of the beloved facility at 770 Don Mills Rd. was announced last Friday after a report released by the Ministry of Infrastructure found that the more than 50-year-old building is at risk of potential roof panel failure due to snow load.

The engineering assessment showed that — in parts of the facility — the roof structure was built using construction materials and systems that are now “outdated” and that certain roof panels are deteriorating.

Oakville-based tech entrepreneur Adam McNamara offered on Sunday to pay the cost of the “panel remediation” cited in the Ministry’s report to keep the Science Centre open for children this summer. The total would come to $522,500.

“If lack of money for repairs is truly the only thing keeping OSC closed this summer, my friends and I are happy to help,” Adam McNamara stated as part of a series of posts on X. “Giving tens of thousands of children and their families the opportunity to fall in love with science seems like a great way to be helpful.”

Sabina Vohra-Miller, co-founder of the science and healthcare-focused Vohra Miller Foundation, quickly offered on behalf of herself and her husband, co-founder Craig Miller, to split the cost with McNamara. The couple later offered to contribute up to $1 million, “if it means the science centre remains where it is permanently.”

The office of the Minister of Infrastructure, Kinga Surma, would not address whether they were aware of or considering these offers; instead, Ash Milton, a spokesperson for Surma, stated that an independent engineering report from Rimkus Consulting Group proposes a single scope of work requiring both remediation and, in some areas, complete roof assembly and panel replacement. “This work has a potential cost of at least $22-40 million and would require a closure of the facility for more than two years. It would still not be open for the summer.”

Noting other repairs that include elevator systems, fire and life safety equipment, heating, cooling and electrical infrastructure, Milton wrote in an email, “The full capital investment to address outdated infrastructure in the building would be at least $478 million.”

But some are highlighting how the infrastructure report states that the centre could technically remain open throughout the summer.

“Based on our review of exposed [reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete] RAAC panels to date, and that shoring has been installed to support critical risk panels, it is our opinion that buildings A, B and C are currently safe for occupancy until October 31, 2024,” the infrastructure report states, adding that risk mitigation for roof areas containing high-risk panels is the immediate concern.

“Reinforcement or replacement of all high risk panels is recommended to be completed prior to October 31, 2024,” the RAAC assessment report adds, noting that total budgetary costs for buildings A, B and C for localized RAAC panel remediation (in high-risk category locations) is $522,500 and total budgetary costs for buildings A, B and C for roof maintenance, assembly, and panel replacement are $7,196,480.

A press release by the Ford government confirms that while the building remains safe over the summer due to an enhanced process for rainwater monitoring and roof facility management, these months will be required for staff to safely vacate the building.

According to Surma, the closure will “protect the health and safety of visitors and staff” at the Centre while supporting its eventual reopening in a new, state-of-the-art facility.

“In the meantime, we are making every effort to avoid disruption to the public and help the Ontario Science Centre continue delivering on its mandate through an interim facility, as well as alternative programming options,” Surma said in the news release.

Infrastructure Ontario is currently looking for a temporary location for the Ontario Science Centre, while work continues to build a new permanent home for the Science Centre at Ontario Place with an opening slated for as early as 2028.