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New sidewalk labs district aims to help make Toronto a leading edge smart city

by Sidewalk Labs - Toronto
in Community Development, Innovation, ONLINE FEATURE

Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to Create Neighbourhoods That Blend People-Centred Urban Design with Cutting-Edge Technology

“Sidewalk Toronto” Aims to Make Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront the Global Hub for Urban Innovation, Starting with Google’s Canadian Headquarters

TORONTO—Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto announced today “Sidewalk Toronto,” their joint effort to design a new kind of mixed-use, complete community on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront. Sidewalk Toronto 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 announcement of Sidewalk Toronto was made at Corus Quay on the Eastern Waterfront 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 rms, Waterfront Toronto selected Sidewalk Labs as its partner; the company has committed $50 million USD 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

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 of North America’s largest areas of underdeveloped urban land.
A recent $1.25 billion CAD 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 November 1, 2017.

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. 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 into Toronto’s already-thriving tech sector and developing innovations that could benefit communities and neighbourhoods elsewhere in the city. To help get started, Alphabet plans to move Google’s Canadian headquarters to the Eastern Waterfront.

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. 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,” said Will Fleissig, President and CEO of Waterfront Toronto.

“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 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,” said Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs and former Deputy Mayor of New York City.

“Today’s announcement is about creating a new type of neighbourhood that puts people first. 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 to make all of our communities even better places to call home,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Ontario is already known as a world leader when it comes to innovation and for having the highly- skilled, educated people that can bring game-changing ideas to life. This is an opportunity to apply all of that talent to one of the biggest challenges faced by cities here and the world how to build urban spaces that are inclusive, sustainable and responsive to the needs of the people who call them home. This project will be a true collaboration between the community and some of the brightest minds in urban development, generating thousands of new jobs and new opportunities for the people of this province,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“There is no better city in the world as a partner for Sidewalk Labs. We need to harness the talent and ambition of urban technology to help serve the people of Toronto and keep our city affordable, livable and vibrant. Sidewalk Toronto will help us test new ideas and new solutions to everything from transportation to affordable housing, benefitting our residents and drawing more talent, investment and jobs to our City,” said Mayor John Tory.

“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 Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet.

About Waterfront Toronto

Waterfront Toronto sees the waterfront as a place that belongs to every Torontonian. As city builders, we care about creating neighbourhoods, parks and destinations that make people’s lives better. Our mission is to revitalize Toronto’s waterfront, with the support of the three orders of government, is allowing the development of groundbreaking solutions to some of Toronto’s most pressing issues: urban sprawl, affordable housing, climate change, mobility and economic growth. As a proponent of citizen-led change, we work with the people of Toronto to make sure waterfront development serves their needs.

With over 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of underutilized land along Lake Ontario, Waterfront Toronto is responsible for the largest waterfront revitalization in North America. Projects include the West Don Lands, Corktown Common, Underpass Park, Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Common, Queens Quay, the Port Lands, Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, and The Bentway.

Waterfront Toronto was established in 2001 by the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario, and the City of Toronto to unlock the social and economic potential of the waterfront by using best practices in urban revitalization, including the most innovative approaches to sustainable development, excellence in urban design, real estate development and leading technology infrastructure.

About Sidewalk Labs

Sidewalk Labs was created to explore how new technologies can solve big urban challenges and improve quality of life in cities. Its unique team combines the urbanists who led New York City’s post-9/11 revival with the technologists who made Google one of the world’s most innovative companies. We believe in the power of emerging digital tools to help enhance social interaction and create people- centred cities, but we also bring a deep belief in the power of community plans, public input, and open collaboration—values forged by decades of experience working in local government.

Before forming Sidewalk, members of its team created an ambitious economic plan that helped catalyze New York City’s comeback, creating new neighborhoods, parks, and public spaces, including the High Line. They designed PlaNYC, the pioneering citywide sustainability plan that made New York City
a leader in fighting climate change. They also helped jumpstart New York City’s now booming tech ecosystem by opening Google’s first engineering office outside Silicon Valley and leading the creation of Cornell Tech, a new academic campus focused on technology and entrepreneurship.

Since Sidewalk’s launch in 2015, its portfolio company Intersection has created the world’s fastest and largest free public Wi-Fi network, LinkNYC, bringing super-fast connectivity to millions of New Yorkers and visitors. The Link system has since spread to London will come to other U.K. cities. Sidewalk has also incubated Flow, a company that uses data to enable new urban mobility services and solutions; Cityblock, a company that aims to improve healthcare services for underserved urban populations; as well as initiatives focused on planning data, intersection safety, and park improvements.

For full press release please visit:

For more information on Sidewalk Labs visit:

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