Waterfront Toronto votes unanimously in favour of moving forward with Sidewalk Labs proposal

Oct 31 2019, 7:48 am

Sidewalk Labs is one step closer to making Quayside a Toronto community.

On Thursday, Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to proceed with a formal evaluation of the Quayside proposal, after Sidewalk Labs agreed to critical changes to address the concerns raised by the public and the Board.

According to Stephen Diamond, Chair of the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors, they have reached alignment on the issues they had with Sidewalk Labs, although added that “this is not a done deal” yet.

Mayor John Tory called today’s vote a “real opportunity for Toronto.”

“This next step forward in the process of developing the Quayside property comes after months of detailed discussions between Waterfront and Sidewalk – supported by myself, my office and City staff,” Tory said in a statement. “Our ability to move forward is possible thanks to Sidewalk listening to concerns raised and agreeing to adjustments to the MIDP [Master Innovation and Development Plan].”

Tory said that they must develop the waterfront in the right way, which is why they are moving through this process carefully.

The Board said there is still much work to do before a final decision.

“While a final Board decision whether or not to proceed has yet to be made, we are pleased that we are now able to move to the evaluation stage on a project that has the potential to create new jobs and economic development opportunities, a create carbon-neutral neighbourhood, and more affordable housing units,” said Diamond in an open letter following Thursday’s vote.

Waterfront Toronto said its initial concerns were rooted in their public interest mandate, including their “responsibility to protect, innovate, and revitalize Toronto’s waterfront.”

In return, Sidewalk Labs has made changes to its proposal that include:

  • The amount of land in the proposal has been reduced from 190 acres (IDEA district) to the 12 acres of Quayside as an initial stage of the project
  • Sidewalk Labs agreed that all personal information will be stored in Canada, and it has eliminated the Urban Data Trust proposal, as well as the term “urban data,” and said it will comply with all existing and future legislative and regulatory frameworks
  • For vertical development, Sidewalk Labs confirmed that it will partner with one or more real estate developers, rather than act as “lead developer” as originally proposed

Sidewalk Labs’ Dan Doctoroff said they are encouraged by today’s decision.

“We want to be a partner with Waterfront Toronto and governments to build an innovative and inclusive neighbourhood,” said Doctoroff. “After two years in Toronto and engaging and planning with over 21,000 Toronto residents, we are looking forward to the next round of public consultations, entering the evaluation process, and continuing to develop a plan to build the most innovative neighbourhood in the world.”

Doctoroff said they are working to demonstrate an inclusive neighbourhood here in Toronto where they can shorten commute times, make housing more affordable, create new jobs, and set a new standard for a healthier planet.

“Quayside represents the next important step towards waterfront revitalization,” said councillor Joe Cressy. “Quayside also represents an opportunity – an opportunity to build a twenty-first century neighbourhood that is truly affordable, liveable, and sustainable. It is critical that we get it right.”

Cressy said that the changes made are significant, and made taking the next step possible. “Without them, we would have had a responsibility to say ‘no’,” he added.

Premier Doug Ford also weighed in on this morning’s decision, saying it is a good deal for the people of Ontario.

“Today’s outcome isn’t a final agreement, rather it is confirmation that as conversations continue between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto, these principles will be protected,” Ford said.

“By focusing the Master Innovation Development Plan on the 12-acre Quayside parcel, ensuring that the land was valued at a fair market price and that the privacy of data collected on the site is protected, the right balance has been struck between protecting the interests of the people of Ontario and encouraging investment, innovation and economic development.”

Waterfront Toronto will meet with the public this fall on the resolution of these key issues, provide clarity on what is being evaluated, and discuss the decision-making process going forward.

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

A decision about whether to move forward with the plan will be made by March 31, 2020 by Waterfront Toronto’s Board.

“Our goal has always been to ultimately build a neighbourhood focused on innovation at Quayside that will be the envy of cities around the world and a beacon for the future,” said Mayor Tory.

“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.”