sidewalk labs toronto

Toronto's bright hope for an innovative future is now just a Budget Rent a Car

It's been a year and a half since Sidewalk Labs' proposed neighbourhood of the future was abandoned. Toronto's contentious Quayside community is now dead and buried, the last vestiges of Sidewalk's branding removed from their local headquarters and community hub at 307 Lake Shore Boulevard East late in 2020.

That should have been the end of the Quayside story, but then a new tenant had to move into the old Sidewalk Labs HQ and dredge up the not-so-distant past.

A Budget Rent-a-Car is not the type of new opening most passersby would even register. Still, the contrast between the glittering future we were promised and the business that has replaced the Sidewalk Labs HQ is too ridiculous to ignore.

Still painted blue with the distinctive stenciled "307" address, the similarities end there. No more colourful murals, and no more ambitions of a tech-forward future.

The area won't be getting automated vehicles in underground corridors, but hey, at least you can rent a family sedan at a reasonable price.

Hilarious juxtaposition aside, it seems the new Budget location is actually doing quite well, sold out of rental cars as of Friday morning.

While we won't be getting the smart city we were promised (or some of its less-celebrated data-mining features), it's only a matter of time until this chunk of waterfront land gets redeveloped.

Waterfront Toronto launched an international design competition for the Quayside site back in March, less than a year after Sidewalk Labs bailed on the site.

In addition to pulling out of their smart city plan and removing a beacon of innovation from the waterfront, Sidewalk Labs has also quietly removed their open-source, open-data, "OldTO" map project, packed with geo-tagged historical photos and aerial views of the city.

With no plan left to sell Toronto on, Sidewalk Labs, which has yet to respond to requests for comment, seems to have removed the wealth of data in September.

No official announcement was made, and the OldTO website now redirects to Sidewalk Labs' main page.

Lead photo by

City Hall Watcher


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