A Post-Sidewalk Labs Toronto

23. March 2021
Aerial rendering of the Proposed Vision for Quayside looking northwest at sunset. (Visualization: 8 + DTAH)

Nearly one year after Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs abandoned plans for a mixed-use "smart neighborhood" on twelve acres of Toronto's Quayside, Waterfront Toronto has launched a competition to find a development partner for the site.

Sidewalk Labs shelved its plans last May, a couple months into coronavirus quarantine, with the company citing the "unprecedented economic uncertainty" brought on by the pandemic as the main reason. If built, the Quayside project would have become a mixed-use development with market-rate and affordable housing, "intelligent" buildings, and a goal of making the whole project climate positive through such means as mass timber. The plans were met with equal parts praise and criticism, both over the involvement of Google (it and Sidewalk Labs are subsidiaries of Alphabet). The tech giant would have overseen the most advanced smart city ever undertaken, with a level of control that raised red flags in terms of privacy and other surveillance concerns.

Waterfront Toronto, a government-funded corporation overseeing the city's waterfront development, is clearly moving away from any smart-city innovations, instead focusing on the potential benefits of the waterfront site. Stephen Diamond, chair of Waterfront Toronto's board, wrote in the May 10th announcement of the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a development partner: "We are looking for leaders in the development field that will share our ambition to create a place that fuses Quayside to the water, and provides more beauty, utility, and originality than previously imagined. We want Quayside to be timeless, adaptive, and to propel us into our rightful place among the great waterfronts of the world."

Waterfront Toronto's goals for the 12-acre site are further explained in the announcement: "Quayside will be a sustainable community for people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities and incomes. A place providing market and affordable housing options for individuals and families. It will offer opportunities for aging in place, including the supports and amenities that will allow seniors to live independently. Inclusive economic development opportunities will create jobs and spaces for business owners that reflect Toronto’s diversity."

Interested parties have until the May 12 to submit RFQs. We should know about Waterfront Toronto's successor to Sidewalk Labs as development partner by the end of 2021.

Aerial View of the Quayside Development Area. (Photo: Waterfront Toronto)

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