Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto reach deal to go forward on Quayside project

Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto reach deal to go forward on Quayside project

Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto have reached an agreement to continue on with the high-tech Quayside project on the eastern waterfront.

The agreement, reached Thursday morning after Waterfront Toronto’s board officially OK’d it, will see significant “realignments” of proposals Sidewalk Labs put forward in its master plan proposal in June.

The agreement basically sees Waterfront Toronto wresting control of the project from Sidewalk Labs in several key areas.

Among them:

  • The scope of the project will be confined to the 12-acre “beta site” near Queens Quay East and Parliament Street — not the larger IDEA District concept Sidewalk Labs proposed that envisioned the Google sister firm expanding its project into the Port Lands.
  • Sidewalk Labs sought to be the lead developer of the mixed-use project at Quayside. Waterfront Toronto says should the master plan go forward, Waterfront Toronto will lead a public procurement process for a developer to partner with Sidewalk Labs.
  • Sidewalk Labs proposed designing and implementing of infrastructure. Under the new agreement Waterfront Toronto will lead “planning, design and delivery of traditional municipal infrastructure, including parks, promenades, streets and sidewalks, water and sewer (mains).”
  • Sidewalk Labs said it could not see its high-tech district — which will draw thousands of new residents and employees if it gets the go-ahead — being built without a new Light Rail Transit line being built. But Waterfront Toronto says it does not have the jurisdiction over the approval of capital funding for public transit.
  • Sidewalk Labs had proposed a civic data trust that would oversee the collection and storage of data collected by sensors at Quayside. Under the new agreement, Waterfront Toronto will lead all digital governance and privacy related to the Quayside project.
  • Sidewalk Labs proposed a “patent pledge” that it would not assert its digital innovation hardware or software patents issued in Canada only. The company also proposed that the public sector get 10 per cent of profits from “test-bed” enabled technology for 10 years.

But under the new terms Sidewalk has agreed to a global patent pledge for Canadian innovators to use all of Sidewalk Labs’ Canadian and foreign patents covering hardware and software digital innovations.

Toronto Mayor John Tory welcomed the announcement, saying “I believe this process has led to an exciting proposal for Quayside that has the potential to create new jobs and economic development opportunities, a carbon-neutral neighbourhood, and more affordable housing units. It is a real opportunity for Toronto.”

In a statement, the Toronto Region Board of Trade also praised the development, with CEO Jan De Silva saying months of negotiations between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs “have resulted in a stronger proposal that brings Toronto one step closer to innovating and showcasing an urban model for the future.”

Waterfront Toronto chair Stephen Diamond said there’s still much work to do before a final decision.

“The public have my assurance that there will be more opportunities to have its say and inform the evaluation and any subsequent decisions by Waterfront Toronto and its board,” Diamond said in a statement.

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“Early in 2020 there will be another round of public consultation to share and seek feedback on the status of the evaluation.”

The agreement means the evaluation of Sidewalk Labs’ project continues, with a deadline to approve the project moving to March 31, 2020.

Marco Chown Oved
Donovan Vincent


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