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Google’s Sidewalk Labs teams up with Waterfront Toronto to create urban community “lab” of the future at Portlands

Toronto’s worldwide reputation as a technology hub was bolstered by an announcement from Google’s Sidewalk Labs, who will partner with Waterfront Toronto (and all levels of government). The goal is to transform the last remaining undeveloped waterfront land in Toronto, at Quayside into the urban smart city of the future — a technology-optimized, environmentally-friendly mixed-use neighbourhood.


Sidewalk Labs early vision for Sidewalk Toronto. Ultimately, 800 acres, in the Portlands area, will become a living lab for the best of urban development in IT, environmental and living/building technologies.


On hand for the announcement was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor Tory, representatives from Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto. [Full press conference event video below.]

The area is now dubbed “Sidewalk Toronto” and will test and showcase the latest technologies in urban living including autonomous public transport, modular homes, flood-proofing technologies, weather-mitigation, and the latest lifestyle-enhancing technologies.

John Tory, Mayor of Toronto was excited by the project: “I’m proud that the city of Toronto is emerging as the global centre for urban innovation and technology.”

Sidewalk Toronto and Sidewalk Labs vision for a new smart urban city on the 800 acres of Quayside — Toronto’s last large, undeveloped stretch of downtown eastern waterfront.


Initially, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto will focus on a 12-acre area at the foot of Parliament. Eventually, plans will expand to include the entire 325 hectares (800 acres), just southeast of Downtown Toronto, typically known as Quayside and Port Lands. The formal vision is stated this way:

Sidewalk Toronto is a joint effort by Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to design a new kind of mixed-use, complete community on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront. Sidewalk Toronto will combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centred neighbourhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity.


A map of the area to be developed under Sidewalk Toronto. The area will become a living lab for latest urban technologies such as autonomous public transit and weather mitigation.


A living lab for urban-living technologies

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the neighbourhood in context of its mission to test new urban technologies:

“Technologies that will help us build smarter, greener, more inclusive cities, which we hope to see scaled across Toronto’s eastern waterfront, and eventually in other parts of Canada and around the world.”


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first speaker at the press conference that included the leaders of all three levels of government and representatives from Sidewalk Toronto and Sidewalk Labs.


The CEO of Sidewalk Labs (a Google sister company) said that the company had “scoured the globe” for the ideal location before deciding on Toronto. He credited Toronto’s diversity and growing technology sector. The initial investment will be $50 million.

The press conference announcing Sidewalk Labs participation in Sidewalk Toronto:

Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt actually praised Toronto and Canada’s encouragement of immigration as a boon to the tech sector that will be so key in this project:

“Try to remember that technology is powered by immigrants. I need to tell some people in America, so please continue.”

Digital infrastructure (visualized in this drawing from Sidewalk Labs) will play a key role in this urban neighbourhood of the future. Drawing from Sidewalk Toronto


Mr. Schmidt added that: “This is the culmination on our side of almost 10 years of thinking about how technology could improve the quality of people’s lives in the ways that have been defined already, whether it’s inequality and access and opportunity and entrepreneurship.”


The Toronto Portlands as they appear today. Ultimately, the entire 800 acres will be developed into an urban neighbourhood of the future.


Initial phase: consultation and $50 million investment

As always with large projects of this type, further consultation and planning will be needed. Sidewalk Toronto expects that process to last a year.

The neighbourhood will become home to tens of thousands of people and will include a mix of homes — possibly modular — offices and recreational areas.


Modular housing is part of the early vision of Sidewalk Labs. Drawing from Sidewalk Toronto.


The objectives were stated this way:

Establish a complete community that provides a superior quality of life for a diverse population of residents, workers, and visitors.

• Create a destination for people, companies, startups, and local organizations to advance solutions to the challenges facing cities, such as energy use, housing affordability, and transportation options.

• Make Toronto a global hub in a rapidly rising new industry of urban innovation.

• Serve as a model for sustainable neighbourhoods throughout Toronto and cities around the world.


The area is planned for mixed-use, to include residential, business and recreational use. Drawing from Sidewalk Toronto.


Environmentally-friendly “climate positive”

Waterfront Toronto, when they first announced the re-development of the Portlands specified they were looking for “climate positive” solutions. Sidewalk Toronto will certainly fulfil that vision with several early initiatives suggested (and likely to be considered):

  • electric, autonomous public transit
  • flood-mitigation technology
  • weather-mitigation such as wind breaks, passive solar heating.


Video introducing Sidewalk Toronto:

Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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