Sidewalk Labs scraps Toronto Quayside project
May 13, 2020
Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs has pulled out of its controversial smart city project on the waterfront in Toronto, Canada.
In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto set out a shared vision for Quayside, a fundamentally more sustainable and affordable community resulting from innovations in technology and urban design.
However, the project ran into criticism not least from locals unhappy about a US company having such access to prime Canadian real estate, especially when the proposal was ramped up to a size much bigger than original envisaged. There were also concerns over data privacy.
All that came to an end last week when Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, announced he was pulling the plug on the project.
“The Quayside project was important to us, and this decision was a difficult one,” he said. “Since the project began, I’ve met thousands of Torontonians from all over the city, excited by the possibility of making urban life better for everyone. So it is with great personal sadness and disappointment that I share that Sidewalk Labs will no longer pursue the Quayside project.”
He said the current “unprecedented economic uncertainty” made it too difficult to make the project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan to build an inclusive and sustainable community.
“For the last two-and-a-half years, we have been passionate about making Quayside happen,” he said. “Indeed, we have invested time, people and resources in Toronto, including opening a 30-person office on the waterfront. But as unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community. And so, after a great deal of deliberation, we concluded that it no longer made sense to proceed with the Quayside project.”
However, he said the current health emergency had increased the company’s belief in the importance of reimagining cities.
“I believe that the ideas we have developed over the last two-and-a-half years will represent a meaningful contribution to the work of tackling big urban problems, particularly in the areas of affordability and sustainability,” he said. “This is a vital societal endeavour, and Sidewalk Labs will continue our work to contribute to it.”
Stephen Diamond, chair of Waterfront Toronto, said: “I am proud of the work we have done and thankful for all of the hard work, talents and expertise staff at Waterfront Toronto have brought to this project. Our collective efforts have given cities around the world new pathways to creating affordable, inclusive and climate positive communities. Today there is global financial uncertainty, but Waterfront Toronto has confidence in the city’s economic future, and will take the long view when making real estate and development decisions on Toronto’s waterfront.”
He said that Quayside remained an “excellent opportunity” to explore innovations for affordable housing, improved mobility, climate change and several other pressing urban challenges that Toronto must address to continue to grow and succeed.
“Today is not the end of Quayside, but the first day of its future,” he said. “Waterfront Toronto will continue to seek public and expert input as we make a next generation community at Quayside a reality.”