Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto Partnership Shoots the Smart Cities Moon

The most ambitious example of the almost-mythological "smart city" will be tested in the Quayside district in Toronto as result of a partnership between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto.
October 23, 2017, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Last week saw the release of additional details about a partnership between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, a unit of Google's parent company, Alphabet. The announcement event builds fanfare beyond the initial revelation of the partnership earlier in October.

The partnership would "map out a new kind of neighbourhood on Toronto's waterfront that could demonstrate how data-driven technology can improve the quality of city life," according to an article by Alex Bozikovic.

Under the initial terms of the partnership, Sidewalk Labs will invest an initial $50 million into a year-long planning process for a 12-acre district on the Toronto waterfront.

"If the initiative proceeds, it would include at least 3.3 million square feet of residential, office and commercial space, including a new headquarters for Google Canada, in a district that would be a test bed for the combination of technology and urbanism," writes Bozikovic.

Sidewalk Labs also released this week a 220-page document laying out its initial ideas for the project, which Bozikovic summarizes as follows:

Within the area it develops, private cars would be banned; streets would be served by autonomous vehicles and freight robots moving in underground tunnels. Intelligent signals would manage traffic on pedestrian-friendly streets; buildings would be designed to be highly flexible, constructed using modular units that are produced nearby. These would be home to what Sidewalk describes as a "radical" mix of offices, retail, residence and maker spaces, a blend which would challenge existing zoning and building-code regulations.

For additional reading on the technological and urban ambition of the Waterfront Toronto-Sidewalk Labs partnership, see also an article by Emily Badger for The New York Times

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Published on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 in The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
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