Sidewalk Labs the smart city division of Googles parent company Alphabet, recently announced a new real estate development called Sidewalk Toronto. It is a joint venture with Waterfront Toronto and it aims to make Toronto a global hub for urban innovation.
The initial phase of the development is called Quayside which is on a 12 acre parcel located at the foot of Parliament Street just east of Toronto’s downtown. It is part of a large tract of over 800 acres of land on the waterfront called the Port Lands which is one of the largest underdeveloped urban areas in North America. It currently is home to mostly a few outdated industrial and warehouse buildings and some parking lots. If all goes well this extra land will enable long term expansion of the project.
The vision for the development is to create a mixed-use neighborhood of office space, retail and residential properties. The project plans to integrate the latest digital technologies with innovative urban planning. A number of forward thinking ideas are being incorporated including driverless cars, underground garbage disposal systems, sustainable energy ideas including deep water cooling and solar, cameras and traffic planning technologies, public wifi, and new health care delivery solutions.
Sidewalk plans to invest in innovation by incubating small companies which develop technological tools to support Sidewalk Toronto and other similar developments in other cities around the world. So far it has earmarked $50 million to the project and Google plans to eventually move its Canadian head office into the area.
Sidewalk Labs is headed by Dan Doctoroff who formerly was the CEO of Bloomberg and who also served as the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development for the city of New York. During his tenure there he oversaw a number of rcommercial eal estate projects which involved land-use transformations including the rebuilding of the World trade Center site.
Most highly planned urban developments which have taken place around the world seem to rarely live up to their hype. These efforts often flop because they tend to feel over-engineered, perhaps too perfect, and maybe not quite human enough.
It will be interesting to see how this development proceeds in the years ahead. It certainly has one thing going for it, it’s tough to bet against Google.