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.

Read Time: 2 minutes

March 15, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Toronto Waterfront

Quayside in its current condition on the waterfront in Toronto. | JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

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.

Friday, March 12, 2021 in The Guardian


Redesigning Streets for Livability: A Global View

An excerpt from the introduction of the recent book, “Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities,” edited by Vinayak Bharne and Shyam Khandekar.

January 18, 2023 - Vinayak Bharne

Aerial view of Bend, Oregon with river and old mill district

Bend Eliminates Parking Minimums

The city is complying with an Oregon state mandate that some cities have challenged in court.

January 20, 2023 - KTVZ

Sunset view over canal and downtown Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale Cuts Water Supply to Nearby Suburb

The city claims it has no responsibility to provide water to the unincorporated Maricopa County community.

January 18, 2023 - The Washington Post

Pedestrians and people on bikes on Atlanta BeltLine multiuse trail

How To Prevent ‘Green Gentrification:’ Lessons from the BeltLine

For one author, the key is focusing on affordable housing from the start.

January 27 - The Conversation

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27 - Smart Cities Dive

Rendering of freeway deck over Interstate 10 in El Paso

El Paso Freeway Cap Linked to Road Expansion

A deck reconnecting neighborhoods divided by the interstate is part of a controversial freeway expansion proposal.

January 27 - Smart Cities Dive