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After Sidewalk Labs, a New Plan Emerges for Toronto's Waterfront

Just shy of a year after Sidewalk Labs pulled the plug on its "smart city" experiment for Quayside, Waterfront Toronto has a released a request for qualifications to move forward with a new, "people-centered" vision for the waterfront.
March 15, 2021, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Toronto Waterfront
Quayside in its current condition on the waterfront in Toronto.

Waterfront Toronto has launched a new international competition seeking a development partner for land in the Quayside area of the city—land previously planned for "smart city" experimentation by Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet.

After Sidewalk Labs canceled its plans in May 2020, citing the economic uncertainty of the pandemic as an obstacle for financial viability for the project. But the proposal was beset by controversy and a skeptical public throughout its process (which began in 2017 and produced a master plan in 2019).

According to a press release from Waterfront Toronto, the new project will strive for lofty design ambitions while also creating a sustainable community for people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities and incomes. "The first step in this effort is to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify potential development proponents with the proven experience, design portfolio, financial resources, and shared vision necessary to bring Quayside to reality," according ot the press release.

An article by Leyland Cecco, writing for The Guardian, focuses on the new "people-centered vision" for Quayside. The article inclues a soundbite from Mike Lydon, who says the failed Sidewalk Labs plan for Quayside is a cautionary tale for cities flirting with "smart city" technology. "To bet the farm on technology that redesigns our entire streets and relies on apps and sensors doesn’t really jive with how human beings actually use public spaces – and how they want to live in cities," says Lydon in the article.

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Published on Friday, March 12, 2021 in The Guardian
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