Plans to build a futurist ‘smart city’ on Toronto’s eastern waterfront have sunk

sidewalk rendering
A rendering of Sidewalk Lab's now defunct "tall timber" vision for Toronto's waterfront area

Sidewalk Labs, a Google-affiliated company, is abandoning its plan to build a high-tech neighbourhood on Toronto’s waterfront, citing “unprecedented economic uncertainty.”

The project was stalled, waiting for government approvals and Toronto citizens and civic leaders had raised concerns about the privacy implications of the project and how much of the city’s developing waterfront Sidewalk Labs wanted to control.

“As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed,” company CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a statement.

The plan featured a range of cutting edge technology, from residential towers made of timber to the use of autonomous cars and heated sidewalks. The company had initially claimed the project would create 44,000 jobs, generate $4.3 billion in annual tax revenues and add $14.2 billion annually in gross domestic product for Canada.

“As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed,” company CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a statement.

“It is with great personal sadness and disappointment that I share that @sidewalklabs will no longer pursue the Quayside project in Toronto,” Doctoroff tweeted Thursday morning.

“In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto set out to plan a shared vision for Quayside, a fundamentally more sustainable and affordable community resulting from innovations in technology and urban design.”

Doctoroff thanked Toronto residents for the support he received for the plan.

The plan to create a high-tech neighbourhood near Queens Quay E. and Parliament Street attracted enthusiasm and skepticism, including concerns about privacy.

Premier Doug Ford said he is disappointed with the news, but is confident the east waterfront will see future development.

“I look at it as now there’s an opportunity for other people to do something spectacular,” he said at a Thursday press conference.

“It’s unfortunate that the company, Sidewalk, had to pull out, but there’s endless opportunities for people to come in and do something spectacular for the waterfront of Toronto.”

The plan featured a range of cutting-edge technology, from residential towers made of timber to the use of autonomous cars and heated sidewalks. The company had initially claimed the project would create 44,000 jobs, generate $4.3 billion in annual tax revenues and add $14.2 billion annually in gross domestic product for Canada.

Critics complained about a U.S. company getting its hands on prime land that could be developed by homegrown enterprises. They also worried about what would happen with data collected from a myriad of sensors and devices throughout the neighbourhood.

Last November, Sidewalk released a 482-page Digital Innovation Appendix explaining how it would use the data captured in the area. It also vowed to not use facial recognition software or use personal information for advertising purposes.

“As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed,” Doctoroff said.

“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. Toronto is one of the world’s great centers of technological innovation, and nothing about this decision will in any way diminish that.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.