Alphabet investing $62 million in Sidewalk Labs Toronto site

toronto waterfront

Alphabet has officially won the bid to make Toronto the site of its Sidewalk Labs Project.

Sidewalk Labs is Google’s unit dedicated to designing, testing, and building new technologies to be implemented in smart cities. Sidewalk Labs will develop a 12-acre site called Quayside on the waterfront of the city.

Reuters reported the news earlier today that Google would be the anchor tenant, and will move 300 employees in Toronto to the new space. This includes a team from its Google Brain unit led by AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mayor John Tory, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the news at Corus Entertainment in Toronto. Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, and Will Fleissig and Dan Doctoroff — CEOs of Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Lab — were also in attendance.

The company has committed $62 million CAD to an initial phase of joint planning and pilot project testing. Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs will spend the next year doing community consultations and planning, long-range planning focused on improving infrastructure and transportation systems, creating new models of affordable housing and flexible retail uses, and establishing clear governance policies related to data protection and privacy.

“Successful cities around the world are wrestling with the same challenges of growth, from rising costs of living that price out the middle class, to congestion and ever-longer commutes, to the challenges of climate change. Sidewalk Labs scoured the globe for the perfect place to create a district focused on solutions to these pressing challenges, and we found it on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront—along with the perfect public-sector partner, Waterfront Toronto,” said Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs and former Deputy Mayor of New York City. “This will not be a place where we deploy technology for its own sake, but rather one where we use emerging digital tools and the latest in urban design to solve big urban challenges in ways that we hope will inspire cities around the world.”

The project was first reported in May 2017 after Waterfront Toronto made a call for proposals to revitalize the waterfront. Sidewalk Labs has released its vision through its RFP response to initiate a public conversation about what the waterfront could be.

Its objectives include creating a community that is open to a diverse population of residents, workers, and visitors, and create a hub where startups, companies, startups, and local organizations can tackle problems like energy use, housing affordability, and transportation.

The year-long effort is expected to culminate into a Master Innovation and Development Plan to be approved by the Board of Directors of Waterfront Toronto and by Sidewalk Labs. It will form the basis for both the Quayside development and any subsequent revitalization of City-owned lands in the Eastern Waterfront.

Sidewalk Labs has been public about its vision for a micro-city or district that could demonstrate its ideas for urban planning, which includes autonomous transit, high-speed internet, embedded sensors, and ride-sharing services.

The first community consultation for Sidewalk Labs will take place on November 1, with details to come soon.

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor.