Google’s parent company just reached an agreement with Toronto to plan a $50 million high-tech neighborhood


Sidewalk Labs — the urban-innovation arm of Google’s parent company, Alphabet — just got the green light to plan a high-tech neighborhood on Toronto’s waterfront.

On Tuesday morning, the board of Waterfront Toronto, the organization administering revitalization projects along the Canadian city’s waterfront, unanimously agreed to work with the company to design the neighborhood. Final approval to physically develop the plans is likely to happen next year.

Called Quayside, the neighborhood will be designed to prioritize “sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity,” according to Sidewalk Labs. The city of Toronto and Sidewalk Labs call the larger project “Sidewalk Toronto.”

Sidewalk had already committed $10 million for the planning process, and an additional $40 million in investment was unlocked with the board’s approval. The entire 12-acre development, however, is expected to cost at least $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal estimated.

The agreement “lays out a path towards a transparent, collaborative partnership with Waterfront Toronto and the people of Toronto,” Josh Sirefman, Sidewalk Labs’ head of development, told Business Insider in a statement. “We look forward to working together to develop a groundbreaking plan to improve the lives of people living in Toronto and cities like it around the world.”

An aerial view of the site for Quayside.

Sidewalk Toronto

The company has been quiet about the exact plans for the neighborhood, but Sidewalk Labs’ CEO, Dan Doctoroff, has spoken about how urban environments could be improved through self-driving cars, machine learning, high-speed internet, and embedded sensors that track energy usage.

“We are excited to take this next step with Sidewalk Labs to set the stage for a transformational project on the waterfront that addresses many critical urban issues faced by Toronto and other cities around the world,” Waterfront Toronto tweeted Tuesday.

Based on 2017 renderings, it looks as if Sidewalk Labs wants Quayside to be a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. The preliminary illustrations include bike-share systems, apartment housing, bus lines, and parks.

Another conceptual illustration of Quayside.

Sidewalk Toronto

The project has been in the works for more than a year. In March 2017, Sidewalk Labs responded to Toronto’s request for proposals to redevelop the waterfront parcel. The planning process kicked off with a community town-hall meeting in November where residents discussed their thoughts and concerns about the project.

Business Insider previously reported that locals had expressed worries that Quayside could become a “new Silicon Valley,” bringing issues like gentrification, higher housing prices, and income inequality.

The plan-development agreement became public on Tuesday afternoon after Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs signed the deal.

Correction — July 31: An earlier version of this story misstated that Sidewalk Labs gained final approval to build Quayside. The company has reached an agreement with Waterfront Toronto to plan the neighborhood.

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