Sidewalk Labs walking away from Quayside “smart city” proposal

It’s back to square one on Quayside development after news this morning that Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs is walking away from its “smart city” proposal on the waterfront.

Sidewalk Labs is citing “changing economic circumstances” for the decision, according to a statement from Councillor Joe Cressy, a member of the Waterfront Toronto board. Waterfront Toronto had just released its report on community feedback on the project on May 1.

Waterfront chair Stephen Diamond issued his own statement this afternoon, in which hs says that “this is not the outcome we had hoped for.” 

While thanking Sidewalk Labs “for its vision, effort, and the many commitments that both the company and its employees have made to the future of Toronto,” Diamond acknowledged  “global financial uncertainty” will have an impact on future plans for the area. 

And that, Waterfront Toronto “will take the long view when making real estate and development decisions on Toronto’s Waterfront.”   

Tim Kocur, executive director of the Waterfront BIA, said in a statement also released this afternoon that the organization is “sad to hear Sidewalk Labs will not be moving forward at Quayside.” 

But expressed optimism for future development on the site noting room for some 67,000 new housing units along the eastern waterfront and Port Lands. That, according to an economic impact study on the Waterfront East LRT prepared by Hatch for the Waterfront BIA.

Cressy says that two years of work done on the controversial proposal will not “all go to waste.”

“The engagement and feedback we have received from residents and community organizations has given us a solid framework that will shape our work going forward,” Cressy says.

The project has been dogged by questions and concerns, including by its own citizens’ advisory committee, over data collection and governance over digital information that would have been collected as part of Sidewalks’ proposal to automate city services – and critics say, “normalize surveillance.”

The decision leaves a huge hole in waterfront plans for the Quayside area, what Cressy describes as “a central project in Waterfront Toronto’s mission to revitalize and reclaim our city’s waterfront.”

But Cressy says that the plan is still “to develop a new model for how we can build a 21st-century neighbourhood – one that is truly affordable, liveable, and sustainable.” And that “It is critical that we get it right.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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