A Neighbourhood Connected: How Google is Shaping Toronto’s Waterfront

Toronto Google


The City of Toronto recently announced that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has chosen Toronto to build the world’s first internet-driven “smart neighbourhood.” This revolutionary undertaking will revamp Toronto’s eastern waterfront, cementing it as a world-class city and a shining example of urban planning and design.

The project will be spearheaded by Google subsidiary Sidewalk Labs, whose mandate is to “imagine, design, test, and ultimately construct urban innovations to help cities meet their biggest challenges.” Tentatively titled Quayside, Sidewalk Labs aims to create a newer and better type of neighbourhood that harbours a greater sense of community.

Breaking Down Quayside

The initial goal of the project is to convert 12 acres of Toronto’s waterfront into what Sidewalk Labs calls a smart city; an advanced community that is connected, efficient and thoughtful. It should improve the lives of its residents in the areas of living, working and recreation.

This high-tech super-community is part of a greater project to revitalize the city’s 800 acres of waterfront, which has been largely ignored despite Toronto’s ascent to global prominence. It coincides with all three levels of government announcing jointly that they will invest $1.25 billion in the city’s Port Lands.

The Birth of an Exciting Venture

For some time, Google has been on the hunt for the perfect home for its ambitious project. The tech giant scoured Europe and the US before choosing Toronto for its multiculturalism, thriving commercial sectors and bourgeoning population. This, coupled with an underdeveloped waterfront, made the city a compelling choice.

Per the arrangement, Sidewalk Labs will commit $50 million to start the project with the municipal, provincial and federal governments chipping in the rest.

What Will It Be Like?

While many details are still forthcoming, Quayside should have a driver-less public shuttle service, affordable housing and efficient energy usage. It will attempt to solve universal problems of housing, energy, commuting and climate change, and also improve access to other parts of the city.

What Does It Mean for the City?

For Toronto, there are a lot of positives to Google’s high-profile project. It will not only be the first of its kind, but it will also revitalize the waterfront, stretching the city further south. If successful, Quayside could lower the cost of housing, provide commuting options that will resolve congestion, and allow for “smart” living.

The potential downfalls include a new housing issue as Toronto becomes even more desirable (and expensive), as well as the cost of the project itself. Based on the recent issues with Bombardier, it might be hard for Torontonians to trust contracts between the city and a global corporation. Expect an uproar if Quayside results in a substantial tax hike or suffers from major delays.

Google and the City of Toronto are planning a town hall meeting to provide more information and to field questions from residents. Stay tuned.



Rob Shapiro | The Edge Blog


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