Sidewalk Labs has released an update to the proposal for its new smart city development but the project continues to attract controversy.
Sidewalk Labs has released an update to its proposal for the new smart city development it is building at Quayside on Toronto’s waterfront.
Owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, Sidewalk Labs says it has been working on the latest concepts for the past year as it moves towards the release of the project’s Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP).
Waterfront Toronto, which selected Sidewalk Labs to develop a plan for Quayside as a testbed for the broader revitalisation of the city’s waterfront, said it expects to receive the full proposal MIDP in the “coming weeks”.
The key initiatives Sidewalk Labs has been developing are:
• A concept to help finance the extension of light rail transit across Toronto’s larger eastern waterfront, accelerating existing (but unfunded) plans by decades, and thus ensuring that public transit would play a core role in future neighbourhoods
• To build roughly 2,500 units of housing in Quayside alone — 40 per cent of which would be below-market units to create options for households of all incomes, and half of which would be purpose-built rental apartments to improve long-term affordability for the waterfront
• To launch a factory in Ontario to supply the mass timber materials that would be used to create sustainable buildings in Quayside (and other neighbourhoods), generating 4,000 jobs and “catalysing” a new Canadian industry.
“We’re excited about what’s coming together, and we think Torontonians will be, too,” said Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs.
“We believe what happens in Quayside can set a precedent for cities around the world seeking to combine new technology, innovative infrastructure, and forward-thinking urban design.”
But the Quayside project continues to attract controversy.
Canada’s National Observer obtained an internal document which it claims “raises new questions” about the transparency of the company’s planning process and the scope of development it is undertaking over public land and public funds.
According to the newspaper, the 20-slide presentation provides “stunning insight” into the company’s “asset manager-like approach” and writes that the tech giant owner has set its sights on revenues and development fees that would otherwise go into public funds.
“We believe what happens in Quayside can set a precedent for cities around the world seeking to combine new technology, innovative infrastructure, and forward-thinking urban design”
“The slides reveal a financial plan for the first time, showing a project that would give the Alphabet subsidiary significant power to collect funds that should be assisting Toronto’s public policy, local infrastructure and urban planning,” it states.
In a statement referred to in the article, Sidewalk Labs confirmed the internal plans were authentic but said they were out of date and provided the fresh proposals outlined above.
In a separate statement, Waterfront Toronto pointed out that it has developed a “rigorous internal process” to evaluate the MIDP to ensure that it meets important objectives, including job creation, climate positivity, affordable housing and urban innovation.
“This evaluation will use subject matter experts and a due diligence panel that will evaluate if proposals in the MIDP represent sound solutions for the urban challenges and represent good value for the people of Toronto,” it stated.
“If the MIDP from Sidewalk Labs does not deliver on the priorities that we have set out for Quayside, in a manner that is in the public interest, then the proposed plan will not be implemented,” it continued.
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