Sidewalk Toronto: potential opportunities in waterfront development.

Firms may have an opportunity to be involved in the engineering, construction and information and communications technology (ICT) areas in this major redevelopment of the Toronto waterfront area.

In 2017, Waterfront Toronto issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) that identified the need for “new and innovative partnerships, funding and investment models” in an era of “constrained” government resources. It called for an innovation and funding partner that would be more than a developer, but a partner to work alongside Waterfront Toronto — and the three levels of government it represents — to conceive and execute a forward-looking vision for the eastern waterfront, an under served area of the city. The focus was on affordability, livability, and mobility – essentially seeking a new model for urban development.

Google’s Sidewalk Labs was selected by Waterfront Toronto as its innovation and funding partner, and the Sidewalk Toronto project launched in October 2017. Shortly after, the project teams began to solicit a wide range of feedback from residents, researchers, community leaders, and government agencies across the city. This unprecedented level of preliminary public input helped shape the plan. Their initial investment proposal was $1.3 billion for the primary development of a 4.8-hectare waterfront property into a residential-focused “smart city” called Quayside.

Sidewalk Labs’ proposal envisions an integrated community with affordable housing, autonomous vehicles, and a wide array of community services. The initial residential buildings proposed are high rise engineered wood structures that are completely sustainable LEED buildings. Roadways will be outfitted with sensors and focused on both autonomous transportation as well as bike and pedestrian friendly areas, drawing a wide range of citizens from the creative to business sectors. It is positioned as a model for the smart and sustainable cities of the future.

Sidewalk Toronto also proposed to be a global hub for urban innovation, anchored by a new Google campus, a new applied-research institute, and a new venture fund for Canadian companies

While there have been concerns over the use of the data collected by the sensors in the community, Sidewalk Labs has put forward the idea to have an independent Data Trust overseen by the city of Toronto to ensure the integrity of the data.

Sidewalk Toronto released its master plan at the end of June 2019. There is some controversy; the plan positions Sidewalk as the key developer (which was not in their original proposal), requests additional land beyond what was originally proposed, and critics say that it does not adequately address data management concerns. The proposal will be voted on by Waterfront Toronto in December 2019 or January 2020.

This project, if it moves forward, will provide opportunities for companies in areas including engineering, construction, artificial intelligence applications, mobility, and sensors.

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