Sidewalk Labs’ CEO says final plan for smart city project will be released next month

Sidewalk Labs’ CEO says final plan for smart city project will be released next month

Sidewalk Labs’ final master plan for its smart city project in Toronto will be released next month, says the firm’s CEO.

Speaking at the Collision technology conference in Toronto Wednesday, Dan Doctoroff told a packed room that the master plan for the Quayside project will be done “literally next month.”

Doctoroff said when that happens another set of public reviews of the proposal will begin.

Sidewalk Labs’ plan for the 12-acre beta-site on the city’s eastern waterfront calls for a mixed-use development consisting mostly of residential units. Once delivered, the tri-government corporation Waterfront Toronto must approve the master plan and likely senior levels of government before it can go ahead.

Asked about criticisms from groups opposed to Quayside that suggested Sidewalk Labs hasn’t been transparent about the project, Doctoroff told the audience, “I think, to be honest, we have been more transparent than any other project I’ve seen.”

“We set up an office, exhibition space, down at the waterfront and had more than 10,000 people come down and see what we’re doing,” he told BNN Bloomberg host Jon Erlichman, who interviewed Doctoroff for the fireside chat-type address at the conference.

He added that Sidewalk has held numerous public forums and meetings during the planning process for the project and met with more than 20,000 people in person.

The Sidewalk project has come under fire from various groups including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which wants the project halted until all three levels of government have established digital data governance polices related to the collection, ownership, use and storage of the personal information that would be obtained in the smart city. A citizens’ group called #Blocksidewalk has also called for a “reset” of the project, arguing for a more transparent process.

On Wednesday evening, Waterfront Toronto and the Toronto Public Library co-hosted a public discussion on the future of digital neighbourhoods and digital literacy. About 100 people attended the event, which was not specifically about Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside Project, although it addressed many of the underlying anxieties the project has raised.

Without mentioning Sidewalk Labs by name, Waterfront Toronto Vice-President Kristina Verner said the organization has heard the public’s concerns “loud and clear.”

“Risks, ethical considerations, including privacy, data ownership and data sharing, are being discussed in a more balanced way than ever before,” she said.

Verner also unveiled Waterfront Toronto’s recently drafted digital principles, which include inclusivity, accessibility, transparency, privacy and data protection.

Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce law and the chair of Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel, spoke about how cities need to first determine what they value before figuring out how to make the most of the new technologies available to them.

Representatives of the Toronto Public Library spoke about their ongoing digital literacy initiatives and the importance of equitable access to online services and networks.

Participants then split into smaller discussion groups on the subjects of digital literacy, digital principles, digital neighbourhoods, digital justice and digital equity.

An artist's rendering of what Sidewalk Labs’ high-tech neighbourhood on Toronto s waterfront could look like one day.

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

Brendan Kennedy is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @BKennedyStar

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