News / Toronto

Google could build the neighbourhood of the future on Toronto's waterfront

A report says the Internet giant has submitted a bid for 12 acres of prime property.

Part of the site that Waterfront Toronto plans to develop at Lake Shore and Parliament.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

Part of the site that Waterfront Toronto plans to develop at Lake Shore and Parliament.

Google could build the city of the future on Toronto’s waterfront.

The company’s urban innovation subsidiary Sidewalk Labs submitted a bid to develop a high-tech district “built from the internet up” on 12 acres of prime waterfront property, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The bid process for the properties by Lake Shore and Parliament closed on April 27, and no winner has been announced yet.

A spokesperson for Sidewalk Labs declined to comment for this story. But Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel L. Doctoroff has outlined his plan for the ambitious organization elsewhere.

In a November 2016 blog post, he describes Sidewalk Labs’ vision for how and why they’ll get started on as many as eight or nine labs this year.

“Local governments have always been great laboratories of innovation, and now more than ever they need to tackle the big challenges facing cities with a new generation of ideas and actions,” he wrote.

The focus of the labs will differ by city but will include housing affordability, health challenges, budget pressures, sustainability and transportation needs.

Founded in June 2015 “to accelerate innovation in cities around the world,” the New York-based organization has indicated it’s more interested in tackling big city issues, not just installing more tech gadgets or Wi-Fi.

Those goals closely match what Waterfront Toronto was looking for in its request for proposals.

The agency stated it was looking for sustainable urban innovation and a partnership model that can “materially contribute to project funding.”

It was not a conventional RFP. Instead of looking for a fully fleshed-out pitch with renderings, Waterfront Toronto’s chief development officer Meg Davis told Metro they were looking for a partner that shared their values with an “unparalleled vision” for Quayside.

“When you open it up like this, we can open it up to people to get creative,” he said, adding bidders might imagine things the agency never considered.

Davis said what Waterfront Toronto is really looking for in the project are ways “to test out new ideas” and experiment in “really leading-edge city building.” She added that carbon neutrality is also an important feature.

Gabe Sawhney, executive director of Code for Canada, was encouraged by the prospect.

“It would be exciting” if Sidewalk Labs came to Toronto, he said.

“I picture this as a really big boost to the civic tech community in Canada.”

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