All the recent speculation has been confirmed, Alphabet's city-building arm Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, will be designing Toronto's Quayside neighbourhood in conjunction with Waterfront Toronto. The partnership to create the neighbourhood is being called Sidewalk Toronto. The 12-acre site along Lake Shore from Bonnycastle Street to east of Parliament will become a high-tech neighbourhood and innovation hub, with an aim to build 21st century cities better.
The announcement at Corus Quay on Toronto's Waterfront this afternoon was of significant enough scale to bring dignitaries from across Canada and the United States to the event. On hand were—from left to right in the image below—City Councillor Ward 37 and Chair of Economic Development Michael Thompson, CEO of Sidewalk Labs Dan Doctoroff, Mayor John Tory, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Waterfront Toronto Chair Helen Burstyn, Executive Chairman of Alphabet Eric Schmidt, Waterfront Toronto President and CEO Will Fleissig, and Member of Parliament Spadina-Fort York Adam Vaughan.
Trudeau spoke of "creating a new type of neighbourhood that puts people first… This project offers unprecedented opportunities for Canadian innovators and will create thousands of good, middle class jobs." Wynne spoke of tapping Ontario's "highly-skilled, educated people that can bring game-changing ideas to life. This is an opportunity to apply all of that talent to one of the biggest challenges faced by cities here and around the world—how to build urban spaces that are inclusive, sustainable, and responsive to the needs of the people who call them home." Tory declared "There is no better city in the world as a partner for Sidewalk Labs. We need to harness the talent and ambition of urban technology to help serve the people of Toronto and keep our city affordable, liveable, and vibrant."
Fleissig echoed the sentiments of the politicians, stating "Waterfront Toronto has made remarkable strides in revitalizing the waterfront with forward-looking new neighbourhoods and reconnecting Torontonians to their waterfront. Today, we are expanding our know-how by partnering with Sidewalk Labs to create a progressive, innovative community; one that addresses significant challenges and sets new standards around sustainability, affordable housing, and community engagement."
Doctoroff and Schmidt were effusive in their praise for Toronto for their excitement in working here. Doctoroff's remarks included "“Successful cities around the world are wrestling with the same challenges of growth, from rising costs of living that price out the middle class, to congestion and ever-longer commutes, to the challenges of climate change. Sidewalk Labs scoured the globe for the perfect place to create a district focused on solutions to these pressing challenges, and we found it on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront—along with the perfect public-sector partner, Waterfront Toronto. This will not be a place where we deploy technology for its own sake, but rather one where we use emerging digital tools and the latest in urban design to solve big urban challenges in ways that we hope will inspire cities around the world.” Schmidt added “On Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront, we are making a bold bet that innovative technology and forward-thinking urban design can make fundamental improvements in city life. Toronto is the ideal place for Alphabet and Sidewalk Labs to do something impactful that we hope will foster new ideas that can be applied by cities around the world.”
Doctoroff stressed that while they are coming with some ideas, there is no plan without hearing from Torontonians first. "We're very sensitive to arriving here with ideas from outside. We're here to listen first." Doctoroff also praised Toronto's attitude toward immigrants, saying "Innovation comes from immigrants. We're glad you remember that, unlike some people these days…" The Sidewalk Toronto team—about 80 people initially—will be spending many months engaging with the community with an eye bringing an initial concept proposal forward about a year from now.
Several years off, successful designs from Quayside are meant to be exported around the world, and will also be shared right next door in Toronto's Port Lands too, as that 800-acre neighbourhood comes online following the completion of Port Lands Flood Protection Project, a seven-year, $1.25 B plan which was funded by the Feds, the Province, and the City in June.
The sidewalk Toronto team wants to hear from Torontonians, and will start the conversation by holding a Town Hall meeting on November 1, details on which are forthcoming. UrbanToronto will look more in depth at the ideas as they come more into focus. In the meantime, you can get in on the early discussion about Sidewalk Toronto and see many more conceptual images for the neighbourhood in our dedicated thread for the area. You can also leave a comment in the space provided on this page.