sidewalk labs toronto

Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto reach tentative deal for neighbourhood of the future

Sidewalk Labs will proceed with its plan to build a high tech "city within a city" along Toronto's eastern waterfront, according to unnamed sources who spoke to multiple local media outlets — but it'll be way, way smaller than what the American firm proposed in its June master plan.

The Alphabet-owned, Google sister company has reportedly reached a tentative deal with Waterfront Toronto that will see it agree to build a new, 12-acre community "from the internet up" in the city's Port Lands.

Called Quayside, the neighbourhood would be closer in size to what was originally approved by municipal, provincial and federal officials two years ago — back before Sidewalk Labs unexpectedly dropped plans to build a district 16 times as large.

All data collected through the project would furthermore be treated as a public asset, according to The Logic, which should quell at least some fears surrounding Google's involvement in building a sensor-stacked "neighbourhood of the future" on Toronto's land.

Concerns about the company overreaching into policy, privacy and public space will likely stick around, however, based on how far out of scope Sidewalk has tried to go so far.

The company's 1,524-page-long Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP), released in June, expanded the original Quayside project into a full-on, 190-acre "Innovative Development and Economic Acceleration district" just east of the downtown core.

It also outlined plans to create a new transportation authority within Toronto (but specific to Quayside), prompting a swift and serious wave of backlash.

Waterfront Toronto, which is run by a consortium of our federal, provincial and municipal governments, did not approve of the MIDP, and issued a press release to that effect shortly after it was made public.

"It is clear that Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs have very different perspectives about what is required for success," said Waterfront Toronto chair Stephen Diamond on June 24.

Diamond made clear that the government consortium would not be giving Sidewalk Labs free reign to do as it pleases with the city, and later announced an October 31 deadline for both parties to either get on the same page or put a halt to the project.

"Waterfront Toronto has told Sidewalk Labs that the concept of the IDEA District is premature and that Waterfront Toronto must first see its goals and objectives achieved at Quayside before deciding whether to work together in other areas," said Diamond at the time.

"Even then, we would only move forward with the full collaboration and support of the City of Toronto, particularly where it pertains to City-owned lands."

If rumours of a deal being struck are true, Waterfront Toronto will move forward with studying the entirety of Sidewalk's (presumably revised) proposal, which also includes a whole host of groundbreaking urban innovations.

Along with things like smart sidewalks, robots that pick up garbage and heated bike lanes, Sidewalk intends to build thousands of new affordable and below-market housing units, reduce typical greenhouse gas emissions by 85 per cent, and create "dramatically more" outdoor space that's accessible year-round thanks to rain and wind-blocking technology.

Neither Sidewalk Labs nor Waterfront Toronto had commented on the existence of a deal as of Wednesday, but we'll know soon enough: Their deadline is tomorrow.

Even if all goes well between both parties, the project would still need to satisfy Alphabet's requirements, pass a final vote, and get approval from all three levels of government.

Lead photo by

Sidewalk Toronto

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