Sidewalk Labs to turn Toronto waterfront into urban innovation hub

Sidewalk Labs to turn Toronto waterfront into urban innovation hub

Sidewalk Labs to turn Toronto waterfront into urban innovation hub
Toronto's eastern waterfront is preparing for a huge renovation project.

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto are partnering to create a new waterfront development that will exhibit “forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology”. 

Arguably the biggest challenge facing the world’s most popular cities is overcrowding. From London to New York, these urban hubs are so in demand that sheer weight of numbers puts stress on infrastructure, public services and housing. Fortunately, many of these problems can be met head-on with innovation and technology – an ambition that’s being put to the test in Toronto, Canada.

The smart city development project has been dubbed ‘Sidewalk Toronto‘, and represents a joint effort by Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to renovate the city’s Eastern Waterfront. The hope is that the new development, Quayside, will be a “people-centred neighbourhood that achieves precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility and economic opportunity”.

The new Quayside neighbourhood will be built southeast of downtown Toronto at Parliament Slip. More than 800 acres of land have been included in the plans, covering what is one of North America’s largest underdeveloped urban areas.

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New tenants are already in place

There are benefits to being one of the world’s most famous employers when bidding for development contracts. Alphabet’s Google will be the first flagship tenant in the Quayside neighbourhood. Google will be moving its Canadian headquarters and 300 employees to Toronto to the development.

The funding for the project is coming from multiple sources. Infrastructure to prevent flooding and other key elements, such as roadwork, will be funded by $1.25 billion the city of Toronto, province and federal resources. Sidewalk Labs is so far committing $50 million to pilot programs that will test new technologies.

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Sidewalk Toronto: The objectives

There are several stated objectives for Sidewalk Labs’ ambitious Toronto development. The first is to “establish a complete community that improves quality of life for a diverse population of residents, workers, and visitors.”

Presumably, this will rely on innovations in the realm of affordable housing and sustainability. Interestingly, the second objective is to make the development a testing ground for other smart city projects and testing. Sidewalk Labs wants to “create a destination for people, companies, startups, and local organizations to advance solutions to the challenges facing cities, such as energy use, housing affordability, and transportation.”

The third and fourth objectives are targeted towards inspiring other major urban centers to follow suit. On the one hand, the project is aiming to “make Toronto the global hub of a rising new industry: urban innovation.” On the other, its planners are hoping that the new Quayside project will “serve as a model for sustainable neighbourhoods throughout Toronto and cities around the world.”

“Today’s announcement is about creating a new type of neighbourhood that puts people first,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Sidewalk Toronto will transform Quayside into a thriving hub for innovation and a community for tens of thousands of people to live, work and play. This project offers unprecedented opportunities for Canadian innovators and will create thousands of good, middle class jobs. The new technologies that emerge from Quayside have the potential to improve city living – making housing more affordable and public transit more convenient for Canadians and their families.

I have no doubt Quayside will become a model for cities around the world and make all of our communities even better places call home.”

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