Sidewalk Labs is officially pulling out of its ambitious Quayside project in Toronto, which would have redeveloped part of the city’s waterfront with a high-tech community.
Quayside, which was slated to be a “fundamentally more sustainable and affordable community resulting from innovations in technology and urban design,” was a joint venture between Sidewalk Labs, a unit of Google Inc. and parent Alphabet Inc., and Waterfront Toronto.
“It is with great personal sadness and disappointment that I share that Sidewalk Labs will no longer pursue the Quayside project,” said Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, in a statement on Thursday.
“But as unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community,” said Doctoroff.
“And so, after a great deal of deliberation, we concluded that it no longer made sense to proceed with the Quayside project, and let Waterfront Toronto know yesterday.”
The goal of Quayside was to transform a 12-acre plot of the Port Lands into a high-tech neighbourhood complete with heated and illuminated sidewalks and so-called “raincoats” for buildings. However, the project proposal had drawn criticism from industry leaders over Sidewalk Labs’ possible collection and exploitation of personal data to create a smart city.
With great sadness and disappointment we announce that @sidewalklabs will no longer pursue the Quayside project in Toronto. We’re grateful to @WaterfrontTO and all Torontonians who contributed to this effort these past 2.5 years. CEO @DanDoctoroff has more https://t.co/VrNI4cSCzM
— Sidewalk Toronto (@SidewalkToronto) May 7, 2020
The project had been in the works for the past two-and-a-half years and had already undergone a number of public consultations, and saw a 30-person office open on the waterfront. Not to mention Sidewalk Labs put a call out for summer interns just last week.
Waterfront Toronto released a statement Thursday in regard to the announcement.
“While this is not the outcome we had hoped for, Waterfront Toronto offers thanks and appreciation to Sidewalk Labs for its vision, effort, and the many commitments that both the company and its employees have made to the future of Toronto,” the statement read in part.
“Today is not the end of Quayside, but the first day of its future. Waterfront Toronto will continue to seek public and expert input as we make a next generation community at Quayside a reality.”
Mayor John Tory echoed a similar sentiment and said that while he regrets Sidewalk will no longer be pursuing the Quayside project, he is “heartened” that Sidewalk and Google – which currently employ hundreds of residents – will still have a presence in Toronto.
“I will be pushing Waterfront Toronto – along with our provincial and federal partners – to make sure the new Quayside that emerges will create new jobs and economic development opportunities, a carbon-neutral neighbourhood with more housing including affordable housing units and better transportation and sustainability features.”
— John Tory (@JohnTory) May 7, 2020
The move by Sidewalk Labs to walk away from the project comes ahead of a May 20 deadline that Waterfront Toronto had set to make its decision on moving forward with the Quayside smart city.