L-R: Michael Thompson, Toronto Councillor, Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Helen Burstyn, Chair of Waterfront Toronto, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc., Will Fleissig, CEO of Waterfront Toronto and Adam Vaughan, MP for Spadina-Fort York. Photos: Kerrisa Wilson 

A new community with Google-approved technology is coming to Toronto and will be the new location for the American tech giant’s new Canadian headquarters. On Tuesday, Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs announced Sidewalk Toronto, a joint effort to design a mixed-use community on the Eastern Waterfront. The smart community will be built with a focus on urban design and new technology.

Sidewalk Toronto was announced during a press conference at Corus Quay on the Eastern Waterfront by Will Fleissig, CEO of Waterfront Toronto, Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc. Eric Schmidt.

Photo: Sidewalk Toronto

Based in New York, Sidewalk Labs is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. The innovation firm aims to explore how new technologies can solve urban challenges and improve quality of life in cities.

“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 Fleissig, in a press release.

Located southeast of Downtown Toronto, the Eastern Waterfront contains more than 800 acres of land which is the target for future revitalization, including the Port Lands. Sidewalk Toronto will begin the development process with Quayside, a new neighbourhood located at Parliament Slip.

Photo: Sidewalk Toronto

Sidewalk Toronto’s vision is to make the Eastern Waterfront a global hub for urban innovation and to tackle the challenges of urban growth. By tapping into the City’s growing tech sector, Sidewalk Toronto aims to develop new technologies that could benefit other neighbourhoods in the city and worldwide. To kick off the revitalization, Alphabet plans to move Google Canada’s Richmond St. headquarters to the Eastern Waterfront.

“A world leader in urban innovation, Sidewalk Labs will create a testbed for new technologies in Quayside. Technologies that will help us build smarter, greener, more inclusive cities which we hope to see scale across Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront and eventually in other parts of Canada and around the world,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at Tuesday’s press conference.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Tuesday’s Sidewalk Toronto announcement. 

This vision aligns with Waterfront Toronto’s Request for Proposals (RFP) issued in March 2017, to find an innovation and funding partner for the development of the Eastern Waterfront. After a lengthy process, Waterfront Toronto selected Sidewalk Labs as its partner. As outlined in the RFP, Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs will collectively work with the City of Toronto to bring urban innovations to Quayside and ultimately scale across the Eastern Waterfront.

Focusing on people-centered urban design, Sidewalk Toronto will create a district on the Eastern Waterfront where people can live, work and play. The community will incorporate climate-positive energy systems, self-driving transit and new construction techniques that can lower housing costs. Complete with waterfront beaches, parks and open public spaces, the community will also be a place for families to enjoy year-round.

Photo: Sidewalk Toronto

“Sidewalk Toronto will help us test new ideas and new solutions to everything from transportation to affordable housing, benefiting our residents and drawing more talent, investment and jobs to our City,” said Mayor John Tory, in a press release.

Toronto Mayor John Tory at Tuesday’s Sidewalk Toronto announcement. 

Over the next year, community and stakeholder events will be held throughout the city to receive public input on Sidewalk Toronto. Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs will also research how to improve infrastructure and transportation systems on the Eastern Waterfront and new models of affordable housing and retail uses.

“This has to be a community conversation or else it won’t be able to achieve the potential nor will it ultimately gain political acceptability to do things that are hopefully quite bold,” said Sidewalk Lab’s Doctoroff.

Following public engagement, a Master Innovation and Development Plan will be compiled and, if approved, it will form the basis for Quayside and subsequent revitalization of City-owned lands in the Eastern Waterfront.

A community town hall will be held on November 1, 2017. For more details visit sidewalktoronto.ca.

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