Lead photo by Sidewalk Labs
It seems Toronto will no longer be home to Sidewalk Labs' proposed neighborhood of the future because the company just announced that they're abandoning the highly controversial Quayside project. Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff made the announcement in a statement 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. Since the project began, I've met thousands of Torontonians from all over the city, excited by the possibility of making urban life better for everyone," Doctoroff wrote. "So it is with great personal sadness and disappointment that Sidewalk Labs will no longer pursue the Quayside project." He said that, while the Alphabet-owned urban innovation firm had invested significant time and money in the innovative project, it is no longer financially viable due to the current state of the economy.
"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 together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community," Doctoroff continued. "And so, after a great deal of deliberation, we concluded that it no longer made sense to proceed with the Quayside project, and let Waterfront Toronto know yesterday." The project was originally set to transform a 12-acre swath of Toronto's eastern waterfront and bring exciting new technologies to the city such as intelligent sidewalks, autonomous vehicles, and tall-timber residential developments. It was due to cost $1.3 billion, with an eventual goal of creating some 44,000 jobs, $4.3 billion in annual tax revenues, and spurring at least $38 billion in private sector investment by 2040. Plans for the project raised serious privacy concerns, however, prompting experts and citizens to demand more information and control over how citizen data would be stored. In June of 2019, Sidewalk Labs dropped a 1,524-page-long draft master plan for the project — one that proposed the creation of an entire district 16 times larger than what had originally been approved by government officials. That plan was eventually revised to look more like the original proposal and a deal with Waterfront Toronto was reached. Now, it seems the many complaints from government officials and watchdog groups over privacy concerns and "overstepping" will no longer be a concern.
The company says that, despite the cancellation of the project, they'll continue to work internally on factory-made mass timber construction that can improve housing affordability and sustainability, a digital master-planning tool that can improve quality of life outcomes and project economics, and a new approach to all-electric neighborhoods. "The Quayside project was important to us, and this decision was a difficult one. We are grateful to the countless Torontonians who contributed to the project, and for the support, we received from community groups, civic leaders, and local residents," Doctoroff wrote. "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."
by Mira Miller