5 key take-aways from Sidewalk Labs’ master plan for Quayside and Toronto’s waterfront


Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs dropped its massive, long-awaited master plan for Monday, providing the first detailed glimpse of its proposal for a smart-city development on Toronto’s waterfront.

The 1,500-page, three-volume Master Innovation and Development Plan is dubbed Toronto Tomorrow: A New Approach for Inclusive Growth.

Here are five things you need to do know about the plan:

More than just Quayside

The plan reveals Sidewalk Labs wants to expand beyond the Quayside development and says the five-hectare site is only Phase 1 of its plans for a much larger area of waterfront.

Sidewalk Labs and its local partners plan to develop both Quayside and the western part of Villiers island, making up 7 per cent of Toronto’s eastern waterfront.

The nearly eight-hectare Villiers West site nearby would be home to an expanded Google Canada headquarters, as well as a mix of residential and commercial space.

If innovations piloted in Quayside and West Villiers island are successful, government could choose to apply them to a broader 77-hectare area of the waterfront, which Sidewalk is calling the Innovative Development and Economic Acceleration (IDEA) district.

Sidewalk is proposing it would lead both the building development and other infrastructure (like the advanced power gird for example) for both Quayside and Villiers West.

For the rest of the IDEA district, Sidewalk plans to develop innovation guidelines so the whole district can meet the same targets on things like as sustainability.

In return for meeting sustainability and development targets, Sidewalk proposes it should get performance payments from government. It’s not clear how much Sidewalk would get. These payments would come from whichever level of government is deemed the public administrator. That could be Waterfront Toronto, or it could be another level of government.

Sidewalk wants to collect data to make life easier for residents, employers and visitors. It has proposed the use of sensors, for example, to measure traffic, noise and temperature. But critics say this will led to breaches of personal privacy.

The master plan proposes an independent, government-sanctioned data trust to establish responsible data-use guidelines, approve and oversee proposed collections of urban data, make publicly accessible data that could be considered a public asset and improve transparency.

Sidewalk labs also commits to not selling personal information; not using personal information for advertising and not disclosing personal information to third parties.


Sidewalk pledges that half of all housing units would be purpose-built rentals and 40 per cent of the units would be family-sized units of two bedrooms or more.

Forty per cent of all housing stock would be offered at below market rates, it says, with half of those units being affordable and including 5 per cent meeting the definition of “deep affordability.”

Affordable is defined by the city as being at or below 100 per cent average market rent, which was $1,492 for a two-bedroom unit in 2019, according to the city.

“Deep” affordability is defined as households at 60 per cent of average market rent.

In total, the plan calls for more than 1,700 below-market units in Quayside and Villiers West.

What Else?

The plan says that Quayside will be the first neighbourhood built entirely of mass timber. A new Ontario-based factory would produce building materials, and, Sidewalk promises, be the catalyst for a new industry.

The plan also details a number of other urban innovations planned for the neighbourhood, including building raincoats — to block rain, wind and sun along sidewalks — and fan shells, to provide cover for open spaces.

What happens next?

There will be a round of extensive consultation with Waterfront Toronto and the city on the master plan this fall.

The Waterfront Toronto Board and city council will have to approve the plan by winter 2020 in order for it to move forward.

May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11

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