“Sidewalk Toronto” to create Global urban innovation waterfront-area hub starting with Google’s Canadian HQ and a $50 million investment

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Sidewalk Labs, a division of Google parent Alphabet Inc., and Waterfront Toronto have announced “Sidewalk Toronto,” a joint effort to design a new kind of mixed-use, complete community on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront.

The project will combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centred neighbourhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity, the organizations say in a news release.

Sidewalk Toronto aims to make the Eastern Waterfront the global hub of a new industry focused on urban innovation to improve the quality of city life, tapping intoToronto’s already-thriving tech sector and developing innovations that could benefit communities and neighbourhoods elsewhere in the city, the announcement said. To help get started, Alphabet plans to move Google’s Canadian headquarters to the Eastern Waterfront.

The announcement was made at Corus Quay on the Eastern Waterfront by on Oct. 17 by Will Fleissig and Dan Doctoroff, CEOs of Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, respectively; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne; Toronto Mayor John Tory; and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc.

After exploring opportunities all over the world, Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company, responded to a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued in March 2017 by Waterfront Toronto that sought an innovation and funding partner for the Eastern Waterfront, beginning with the creation of a new neighbourhood called Quayside, located at Parliament Slip.

Following a rigorous procurement process involving a number of local and international firms, Waterfront Toronto selected Sidewalk Labs as its partner; the company has committed US$50 million to an initial phase of joint planning and pilot project testing.

To initiate a public conversation about what might be possible on the Eastern Waterfront, Sidewalk Labs has released the vision laid out in its RFP response, which can be found at www.sidewalktoronto.ca.

Consistent with the RFP, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto will work with the city to bring urban innovations advanced at Quayside to scale in the Port Lands, the primarily publicly-owned area of more than 325 hectares (800 acres), one ofNorth America’slargest areas of underdeveloped urban land.

A recent $1.25 billion investment by federal, provincial, and municipal governments will enable Waterfront Toronto to provide the flood protection and critical infrastructure necessary to revitalize the area.

Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs will devote the next year to extensive community and stakeholder consultation and long-range planning, focused on improving infrastructure and transportation systems, creating new models of affordable housing and flexible retail uses, and establishing clear governance policies related to data protection and privacy.

This critical public engagement will culminate in a Master Innovation and Development Plan that, if adopted by the Board of Directors of Waterfront Toronto and by Sidewalk Labs, will form the basis for the Quayside development and any subsequent revitalization of city-owned lands in the Eastern Waterfront. This process will kick off with a community Town Hall on Nov. 1.

Knowing that great neighbourhoods aren’t planned from the top down, Sidewalk Toronto will create the conditions for a community to be built—and innovations launched—by people, companies, startups, academic centres, and local organizations over many years.

The media release says the district will become a place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn, and play—and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life, from climate-positive energy systems that can deliver a new standard in sustainability, to self-driving transit that makes streets safer, to new construction techniques that can lower housing costs. It will also reflect the cultural diversity and openness of Toronto, and help connect all Torontonians to waterfront beaches, parks, and communities.

“Working together with the local community, Sidewalk Toronto aspires to create a place that encourages innovation around energy, waste, and other environmental challenges to protect the planet; a place that provides a range of transportation options that are more affordable, safe, and convenient than the private car; a place that embraces adaptable buildings and new construction methods to reduce the cost of housing and retail space; a place where public spaces welcome families to enjoy the outdoors day and night, and in all seasons; a place that is enhanced by digital technology and data without giving up the privacy and security that everyone deserves.”

“Waterfront Toronto has made remarkable strides in revitalizing the waterfront with forward-looking new neighbourhoods and reconnecting Torontonians to their waterfront,” said Waterfront Toronto’s Will Fleissig. “Today, we are expanding our know-how by partnering with Sidewalk Labs to create a progressive, innovative community; one that addresses significant challenges and sets new standards around sustainability, affordable housing and community engagement.”

“Successful cities around the world are wrestling with the same challenges of growth, from rising costs of living that price out the middle class, to congestion and ever-longer commutes, to the challenges of climate change,” Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a statement. “Sidewalk Labs scoured the globe for the perfect place to create a district focused on solutions to these pressing challenges, and we found it on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront—along with the perfect public-sector partner, Waterfront Toronto. This will not be a place where we deploy technology for its own sake, but rather one where we use emerging digital tools and the latest in urban design to solve big urban challenges in ways that we hope will inspire cities around the world.”

“On Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront, we are making a bold bet that innovative technology and forward thinking urban design can make fundamental improvements in city life. Toronto is the ideal place for Alphabet and Sidewalk Labs to do something impactful that we hope will foster new ideas that can be applied by cities around the world,” said Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt.

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