Toronto is on the list of three cities being considered for Expo 2000 -- the turn-of-the-millennium world's fair.
A consortium of 38 companies, led by architect Murray Beynon and management consultant Hans Jansen, have a concept to turn the current Canadian National Exhibition grounds into a dazzling setting that would include a permanent 1.4 million-square-foot exhibition hall, several clean-water lagoons, a floating hotel, mixed-income waterfront housing and a glass pyramid Expo center.
Jansen, co-director of the Toronto World's Fair Consortium and partner in the Bay Consulting Group, has just returned from Paris. There he met with the executives at the Bureau International des Expositions, governing body for world's fairs, and said the BIE is impressed with Toronto as a possible site for Expo 2000.
Along with the natural beauty of its waterfront, the $400-$500 million worth of infrastructure in place and the 75 million people expected to be living within a day's drive of Toronto by the year 2000, there are two other key reasons why the city stands a good chance of getting the fair.
The two other prime possibilities, Hanover, West Germany, and Venice, Italy, are both European. Since the BIE already has decided that Seville, Spain, will host the 1992 fair and that Vienna, Austria, and Budapest, Hungary, will jointly host the 1995 fair, it is North America's turn.
Secondly, with a peak attendance of 425,000 visitors a day, the site would have to accommodate all those people. Hanover is a small town and Venice can barely handle the tourists it gets now, Jansen said.
Expo 2000 also would be the first "universal" world's fair since Expo '67 was held in Montreal, he said. A universal fair, as distinct from a "specialized" fair such as Expo '86 in Vancouver and Expo '84 in New Orleans, focuses on broad themes and includes or world's fair in year 2000
structures built by the host country that remain after the fair closes.
Expo '67's theme was Man and His World, and the buildings have remained as a permanent exhibition and housing facilities. The Expo 2000 theme is urban living and Toronto is regarded by BIE executives as "a natural place to hold the fair," Jansen said.
"It's a rapidly growing city that has continued to work. We think we have problems here, but compared to cities like London and Paris, we have few worries. It's a multicultural city and a major economic center in a large country," he said.
From Toronto's view there are several benefits, Jansen said.
The permanent exhibition hall would finally provide the city with a major facility for touring exhibitions, considered too large for Metro Toronto Convention Center. Housing and enclosed, clean waterfront beaches and a variety of parks and theater facilities would remain after the fair closes.
While Jansen acknowledges the design will probably change five to 30 times before final approval is given, whatever plan is chosen will give Toronto something spectacular with which to celebrate the new millennium, he said.
Private sponsors, including the Canadian offices of IBM, Xerox and McDonald's, along with Marathon Realty (the real estate development arm of CN Rail behind SkyDome) and Canada's three major breweries, have spent $750,000 in lobbying for the fair. The site also has the political backing and pledges of financial support from the City of Toronto, Metro Toronto and the province of Ontario.
This support has been a major boost in helping Canadian cities win international competition sites over the few U.S. cities. Jansen said Miami had considered bidding for the 1995 world's fair but dropped out because of insufficient financing.
U.S. cities, unlike Canadian ones, cannot get federal aid because of complex rules forbidding Washington from favoring any state project.