Toronto and Sidewalk Labs modify plan to revitalize world’s largest urban waterfront

On July 31, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the city/provincial/federal revitalization corporation, Waterfront Toronto, signed and released the Plan Development Agreement (PDA) with Sidewalk Labs, paving the way for an innovative waterfront community plan.  Sidewalk Labs is owned by Google‘s parent company, Alphabet. On August 15, Sidewalk Labs offered new designs for the project, shown in the renderings at the top and bottom of this article.

The agreement defines and governs the relationship between the two organizations as they jointly create a Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) focused on Quayside. Specifically, it backs off one key aspect of Sidewalk Labs’ original proposal, which indicated that Sidewalk Labs would have the right to increase the footprint of its plans across the entire 324-hectare eastern waterfront when that area—which is mostly city-owned—came under Waterfront Toronto’s purview.

The Quayside parcel to be revitalized.

The new agreement says that—with the exception of the initial Quayside parcel—no other waterfront properties would automatically be included in the project. But they agreed that more land could be added in the future, should a business case be made that justified it, and that wins other government approvals.

We are excited to take this next step with Sidewalk Labs to set the stage for delivering a truly transformational project on the waterfront that addresses many critical urban issues faced by our City and other cities,” said Helen Burstyn, the Chair of Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors.

The PDA is the next step in planning the revitalization of Quayside, located at Lake Shore Boulevard East and Parliament Street in Toronto. It envisions a new kind of mixed-use, complete community by combining forward thinking urban design, new digital technology and other innovative solutions to create a neighbourhood that sets new standards for urban living while supporting Canada’s growing cleantech, construction and technology sectors.

Toronto skyline. Photo by Storm Cunningham.

The PDA sets out the planning and funding relationship between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, including a budget and joint oversight measures for spending the up to USD $50M commitment by Sidewalk Labs, outlines shared objectives and principles, and makes clear that there is no transfer of ownership or sale of land as a result of the agreement.

The PDA replaces the October 2017 “Framework Agreement” between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, which was a preliminary document.

The Plan Development Agreement was crafted to reflect the aspirational goals and ambitions we set out for Quayside when Waterfront Toronto issued its RFP last year,” said acting CEO Michael Nobrega.

A central goal was to serve the public interest and to lay the groundwork to achieve these goals in the Master Innovation and Development Plan. Our Board and management team took the time necessary to ensure that the agreement reflects both Waterfront Toronto’s enduring vision and mandate, and the aspirations we share with Sidewalk Labs for the transformational nature of the project,” he continued.

The Plan Development Agreement is based on months of successful collaboration with Waterfront Toronto. This agreement defines goals, roles and responsibilities and will guide all of our work together as we develop a groundbreaking plan that aims to achieve new levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity,” added Josh Sirefman, Head of Development at Sidewalk Labs.

Key elements of the agreement include:

  • Clear roles and responsibilities, with Waterfront Toronto as revitalization lead and Sidewalk Labs providing urban innovation and digital technology expertise;
    Shared objectives, including creating a destination for people, companies, startups, and local organizations to advance solutions to challenges, such as sustainable energy use, housing affordability, and access to transportation;
  • Fostering economic development, job creation, and prosperity by catalyzing a world leading cluster focused on urban innovation on the waterfront;
    Establishing Digital Governance Framework Principles to ensure important issues, such as personal privacy, data sovereignty, and data security and usage, are addressed and informed by experts with a view to both protecting the public interest and encouraging innovation;
  • The MIDP will include a comprehensive plan for Quayside and will also bring forward proposals for consideration at scale. For this purpose, the context area for scale explorations during the planning process is defined by the Designated Waterfront Area, as set out in the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation Act;
  • A September 30, 2019 timeline within which the completed MIDP must be approved by the Board of Directors of both Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs;
    A commitment to ongoing public consultation and engagement led by Waterfront Toronto; and
  • Multiple points of accountability and approval by Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors.

Waterfront Toronto is a public-public partnership established by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto in 2001 to oversee and lead the renewal of Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront (the world’s largest urban waterfront).

Their mandate is to deliver a revitalized waterfront that brings together the most innovative approaches to sustainable urban redevelopment, excellence in urban design, real estate development, and leading technology infrastructure.

All images courtesy of Sidewalk Labs unless otherwise credited.

See Waterfront Toronto website.

See Sidewalk Labs website.

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