After a year and a half of public hearings and criticism, Google sibling company Sidewalk Labs just unveiled its master plan to redevelop a stretch of Toronto’s waterfront with “smart” features like snow-melting roadways, an underground delivery system and a slew of data-collecting sensors.
The 1,500-plus-page planning document, viewable in segments below, will go through a lengthy evaluation and public review process as the city decides whether to move forward.
Although Sidewalk Labs announced its ambitions to bid for Toronto’s redevelopment in 2017, this is the first document that fully lays out its ultimate vision, which includes proposals for two neighborhoods—Quayside and Villiers West—as well as a larger Innovative Development and Economic Acceleration (IDEA) district.
Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of the Alphabet subsidiary and a former deputy mayor of New York City, touted the plan as a “groundbreaking blueprint for the neighborhood of the future” that is environmentally friendly and built for people of all income levels.
Residential units make up 67% of the planned development in the main Quayside district, for example, with 40% at below-market prices, and Sidewalk promises 1,700 affordable housing units in all.
“We think it’s the first true articulation of what’s really possible when you combine cutting-edge innovation and forward-looking urban design to produce an inclusive community,” Doctoroff said during a briefing with reporters on Monday.
Meanwhile, concerns about privacy and data collection have been rife within the planning process. Several advisers from Waterfront Toronto, a government-appointed agency working with Sidewalk, resigned in the past year because of privacy concerns, and Toronto citizens have formed advocacy groups like the #BlockSidewalk campaign.
Sidewalk has stipulated the creation of an independent Civic Data Trust to handle digital governance issues and has also committed not to sell personal information, not to use personal information for advertising and not to disclose information to third parties without explicit consent.
Waterfront Toronto said in a statement that based on a read-through of the plans, it will require additional information to establish whether the initial proposals are in compliance with applicable laws and its own data principles.
Doctoroff said that Sidewalk would continue to work closely with the government and community groups to move its plan forward and described the process as “like a 50-sided Rubik’s cube.”
The master plan outlines a capital-intensive investment for Sidewalk, though also one that could potentially be incredibly lucrative. At this point, Alphabet’s subsidiary companies like Sidewalk, called its “Other Bets,” have generated very little revenue. In the company’s most recent quarterly earnings, the “Other Bets” reported losses of $868 million and $170 million in revenue.
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