Sidewalk Labs calls off Toronto smart city neighbourhood plan

A subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has cancelled a 12-acre high-tech district for Toronto, citing "unprecedented economic uncertainty … in the Toronto real estate market" for the decision.

Sidewalk Labs’ planned "Quayside" project was based on Lake Ontario’s waterfront in the east of the city, and was to be North America’s largest smart city, containing data-driven systems to improve traffic, air pollution, noise, waste and public transport.

Sidewalk Labs won the contract for the project in 2017, and planned to invest $50m during the first year of development. It then opened a 30-person office in Toronto and commissioned designs from Heatherwick Studio (pictured) and Snøhetta.

In a statement, Daniel Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs’ chief executive, thanked government organisation Waterfront Toronto.

Waterfront Toronto said in a statement: "Today is not the end of Quayside, but the first day of its future. Waterfront Toronto will continue to seek public and expert input as we make a next generation community at Quayside a reality."

Quayside came under scrutiny when a larger 190-acre proposal was announced in 2019, raising concerns over data collection.

Images of Quayside courtesy of Heatherwick Studio

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  1. It’s important not to give up now on encouraging private-sector investment & innovation into Toronto’s waterfront.
    Lessons should be learned from this Waterfront Toronto/Sidewalk Labs experience. It’s very difficult to get anything done on Toronto’s waterfront. Believe me, I know it first hand. While at TEDCO, our team had some success in developing a Portlands film studio using a P3 model, plus we built the LEED Gold HQ for Corus Entertainment; yet after that it was nearly 10 years before another office building broke ground on the waterfront! Each one of those TEDCO projects were very hard to accomplish and took a team approach… and a stiff backbone. It will be interesting if the governments involved in the waterfront truly understand when & how this WT/Sidewalk saga went off the rails? Apparently over $16 million of taxpayers funds were spent on it, plus of course what Google’s Sidewalk Labs expended too and 3 year of effort.

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