Toronto Zoo to Rebuild Welcome Area, Conservation Campus

‘Wild Encounters’, walking routes, and ‘Scenic Safari Drive-Thrus’ continue to draw urbanites to one of the city’s most popular attractions.

The Toronto Zoo is revitalizing its front entrance, envisioning it as a conservation campus and community hub. An update to the Zoo’s 2016 Master Plan, the expanded scope was recently initiated to integrate the entrance plan with the Zoo’s overall strategic plan, and to recognize the realities of operating in a COVID-19 pandemic world.

Toronto Zoo DevelopmentsSchematic Design: Overall Plan. This area will be seen as a community conservation campus, improving access and the first impression for visitors arriving at the Toronto Zoo. Image via submission to the City of Toronto

Dolf DeJong, Toronto Zoo CEO cited the revitalization of the front entrance as “a critical next step to modernize our Zoo, build connections to the community, enhance awareness of our mission, and help drive attendance and earned revenue.” This major capital project will be constructed in two phases.

Toronto Zoo DevelopmentsSchematic Design: North Block – Plaza Level Plans show components, incl. Arrival/Departure, Orientation, classrooms, a theatre, a changing exhibit space, the Restaurant, Gift Shop. Image via submission to the City of Toronto

The revitalization is being led by Zeidler Architecture Inc. in association with Jones & Jones Architects & Landscape Architects Ltd, a specialist in zoo design. In collaboration with stakeholder groups, the project team has refined the concept and proposed a design that goes beyond the traditional zoo front: components such as entrance wickets, retail and restaurant facilities reveal a broader commercial intent that may help recover costs and create jobs. Program elements now include classrooms, wet laboratories, a theatre/ lecture hall and a flexible centre for events and programming: a future vision that may unlock synergies across social, educational and business lines. The project also includes enhanced courtyard and landscaping, and a flexible outdoor habitat.

Schematic design is wrapping up. This month, the project team moves into detailed design for the northern portion of the facility, anticipating completion in June, 2021 and tendering for this Phase 1 scheduled for July, 2021.

Toronto Zoo DevelopmentsSchematic Design: North Building Elevations. Image via submission to the City of Toronto

The project has capital funding in place from the City of Toronto. Institutional partners are engaged and are anticipated to support the initiative through sharing expertise and bringing in additional funding. For example, University of Toronto Scarborough is interested in sharing learning and research space.

The Toronto Zoo Community Conservation Campus project will modernize the Toronto Zoo, which is committed to “connecting people, animals and conservation science to fight extinction.” The Zoo’s Strategic Priorities include: saving wildlife; sustainability initiatives; re-imagining the guest experience (for today and future); connecting zoo and community; and, leading the way for innovation in technology for zoos worldwide. The roll out of the Master Plan will see over a dozen capital projects, including accessibility improvements, exhibit enhancements, building and services refurbishments.

Construction for this Phase 1 will commence in 2021, with anticipated completion in 2022. Phase 2 is scheduled for subsequent years.

Toronto Zoo DevelopmentsSchematic Design: Conservation on Display. Image via submission to the City of Toronto

Additional information and images can be found in our Database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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