Sidewalk Labs pulls out of Toronto waterfront smart city project

Daniel Fowler
May 10, 2020

Sidewalk, which employs 30 people in the city, will keep its Toronto office and will redeploy as many of its staff as possible to other projects, said a spokeswoman.

"We were very supportive".

Artist conception of the fully wired Quayside project by American company Sidewalk Labs. He announced on May 7 the project was cancelled.

Google's parent company has abandoned a controversial plan to build a "smart city" on the waterfront of Toronto blaming "economic uncertainty" brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. When Cavoukian realized that third-parties may have access to the data, she felt it was time to leave the project: "When I heard that, I said, "I'm sorry". We hope that the innovative and forward-looking concepts can be applied on future development projects.

Sidewalk Labs had developed a proposal for a futuristic, data-driven city development in the heart of Toronto's business district, and was working with a government-mandated agency who planned to vote whether to approve the final proposal in June.

"Although this is not the result we expected, Waterfront Toronto would like to thank and award Sidewalk Labs for the vision, efforts, and many commitments made by the company and its employees for the future of Toronto", Stephen Diamond, head of the agency, said in statement. Billed as the city of the future, the controversial project was detailed in a 1,500-page master plan past year.

That plan was eventually revised to look more like the original proposal and a deal with Waterfront Toronto was reached.

In November 2019, the parties reached agreements on project scope and footprint.

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"Sidewalk Labs was attracted to Toronto by the diversity, growth, and opportunity the city has to offer, and that view has been affirmed and strengthened at every step along the way", said the CEO.

After a tense summer of negotiation between Sidewalk and Waterfront Toronto, the two sides agreed to limit the scope of the project, and since November of previous year the public agency has been studying the details of the proposal.

"Our goal remains to ultimately build a neighbourhood focused on innovation in Quayside that will be the envy of cities around the world and a beacon for the future", Tory said.

The Quayside plan included all-timber high-rises in a mixed-use neighborhood that would have 3,000 housing units (a third of which would have been affordable), retail and commercial space, and schools.

Jan de Silva, president of the Toronto Regional Board of Trade President Jan de Silva, a staunch supporter of the project, said the announcement was not unexpected, but that she had not heard concerns from industry about negative implications for Toronto overall. It was unclear whether it would have proceeded with or without the negative impacts of the pandemic.

"Here we had a private sector developer really interested in pursuing that whole initiative and what that would mean for the next generation of workers", said Yorke.

In the debate over whether to go ahead with the project, supporters often suggested that the development was a test of whether Canada could really do big, interesting things.

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