Alphabet’s smart-city ambitions for Toronto waterfront face pushback

Sidewalk Labs, a Google sister company, provided detailed plans that appear to far exceed original project scope

Sidewalk Labs' Dan Doctoroff and Waterfront Toronto's Stephen Diamond
Sidewalk Labs' Dan Doctoroff and Waterfront Toronto's Stephen Diamond

In 2017, Google sister company Sidewalk Labs won a bid to build a sustainable neighborhood on a 12-acre parcel of Toronto’s waterfront known as Quayside. On Monday, the company — led by former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff — revealed its first detailed plans for the area and far more.

In addition to the Phase 1 Quayside development, the proposal includes the creation of a 190-acre “River District” in the city — a move that appears to have surprised the project’s government sponsor, Waterfront Toronto, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“There are proposals where it is clear that Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs have very different perspectives about what is required for success,” Waterfront Toronto chairman Steve Diamond said. Sidewalk Labs is a subsidiary of Alphabet.

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Doctoroff, who spearheaded Hudson Yards’ development as deputy mayor, appeared to take the comments in stride. “It would be ridiculous to assume every issue would be resolved,” he told the Journal. After public consultations and negotiations, the boards of Waterfront and Alphabet will have to provide final approval for the plan to proceed, possibly as early as 2020.

Previous reports indicate that Sidewalk may ultimately plan to develop as much as 800 acres of Toronto waterfront into a “smart city.” Waterfront Toronto is responsible for a total area of nearly 2,000 acres.

Alphabet’s plans for the area have faced local opposition, and residents have expressed concern over the large amounts of data being collected and how it would be used. A Sidewalk spokesperson said the company has committed to not sell personal data or use it for advertising. [WSJ] — Kevin Sun

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