It appears the high-tech Quayside project will take steps forward after Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto came to an agreement, with many conditions.
First of all, the scope of the Quayside project has been confined to the 12-acre “beta-site” at Queens Quay and Parliament. Sidewalk Labs wanted to expand their vision to the Port Lands, but that’s no longer in the cards for now.
With thousands of people potentially living and working in Quayside, Sidewalk Labs also wanted to build a new Light Rail Transit Line, but Waterfront Toronto says they do not have the jurisdiction to approve funding for new transit. Sidewalk Labs may not be building the new transit, but hopefully the City and provincial government realize it will be necessary.
Waterfront Toronto will also be leading the development of basic municipal infrastructure like streets, sidewalks, water, sewers, etc. There were some interesting plans that Sidewalk had for the streets in Quayside, including hexagonal pavers that may be more durable and provide additional lighting and signalling. We’re not sure how Waterfront Toronto’s control over municipal infrastructure development impacts innovations like this.
In the original proposal, Sidewalk Labs basically wanted control over everything, including being the lead developer for the project. The new agreement says that if the Quayside project moves forward, then Waterfront Toronto will conduct a public procurement process to select a developer to partner with Sidewalk Labs.
“Today's outcome isn't a final agreement, rather it is confirmation that as conversations continue between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto, these principles will be protected,” says Premier Doug Ford. “By focusing the Master Innovation Development Plan on the 12-acre Quayside parcel, ensuring that the land was valued at a fair market price and that the privacy of data collected on the site is protected, the right balance has been struck between protecting the interests of the people of Ontario and encouraging investment, innovation and economic development.”
One of the greatest controversies surrounding Quayside was the concern over personal data. To ease tensions, Sidewalk Labs proposed the creation of an independent civic data trust to manage the data collected. This isn’t necessarily out the window, but Waterfront Toronto will be leading all digital governance and privacy. How they decide to proceed is currently unknown. There’s a chance they’ll move forward with a civic data trust, or perhaps they’ll come up with a different way to manage and protect the personal data collected.
The good news is that the Quayside project isn’t dead yet. The bad news is that it may not be as high-tech or innovative as originally proposed. Sidewalk Labs’ proposal will be formally evaluated and there will be more public consultation in the new year. The final vote to approve the project is scheduled for March 31, 2020.
There are still many opportunities here to explore a variety of housing and construction solutions, so we’re still excited to see what’s next for Toronto’s east waterfront!