Published on March 1, 2016 | by Drew Yorke-Slader Photography by Wladyslaw Sojka0
The observation deck: Norm’s ideal view of the 6
The observation deck on the 27th floor of city hall has been closed for over a decade but city councillor Norm Kelly said it’s time to open it up to the public.
On Feb. 3, council voted 34-1 to approve Kelly’s motion to investigate the possibility of opening the observation deck for public access. Kelly said the deck will act as an invitation to tourists and Torontonians alike.
“City hall can be a pretty stuffy place,” said Kelly. “I would hope that with the consent of council we could spruce it up a bit so it’s less forbidding in its context.” Kelly’s motion also included a request to explore the possibility of opening a cafe on the deck. “I think there should be a chance to get up on the observation deck and see how city hall physically relates to the rest of the downtown,” said Kelly. “We want to generate that emotional response to the city.”
Currently, access to the deck is limited to Doors Open Toronto, an annual event that invites the public into locations usually kept off-limits. Councillor Michael Thompson has been involved with Doors Open and said the deck was a popular site during the event. “People were quite pleased by it and it was well received,” said Thompson.
Councillor Stephen Holyday filed an amendment to Kelly’s motion adding the request to investigate possible revenue generation options such as admission fees or special events permits but it was rejected by council.
Holyday said that he was not satisfied with the amount of information being requested by council. “To me it was important to understand what the costs were involved with getting the observation deck ready and the original motion didn’t contain that request. On top of that, there was potential to generate some revenue that would help offset those costs,” said Holyday. Councillor Thompson said he believed Kelly’s motion was broad enough to give staff the options needed for investigating possible revenue generation. “If we invest in it, we want to recover some of that investment,” said Thompson.
In addition to questions concerning cost, Holyday said that accessibility will be a factor when opening the observation deck. “I suspect there is a very good reason it is not open today,” said Holyday. “It may require physical reconfigurations, it may require an attendant or security officer be there – I don’t know – but there could be costs associated with it.”
ERA Architects is a firm that specializes in conserving and restoring heritage architecture. Michael McClelland, a registered architect and founding Principal at ERA Architects, said that the age of the deck could affect accessibility. “It may be difficult to open up something that doesn’t meet current code standards. That’s actually where it may fall apart as an idea,” said McClelland. “I think they will determine that it’s very hard to make it accessible.”
Councillor Thompson said he doesn’t believe there will be any “huge challenges” when opening up the deck but admits they are in the early stages of planning. “I think what we’re looking for is to have a professional staff come back with a model or plan that demonstrates how we can make it happen, the feasibility and what would be involved,” said Thompson.
Kelly said that plans for opening the observation deck could be in motion by late spring or summer.