Sidewalk Labs LLC., the urban innovation unit of Alphabet Inc., is proposing to team up with local partners to invest $980 million to get its vision for a high-tech city in Toronto off the ground.
The company today publicly released its draft Master Innovation and Development Plan for Toronto’s eastern waterfront, titled Toronto Tomorrow: A New Approach for Inclusive Growth. The proposal is a product of 18 months of input from more than 21,000 Torontonians; all levels of government; meetings with local experts, non-profits and community stakeholders; and the research, engineering and design work of more than 100 Toronto firms.
The proposal comes 20 months after Sidewalk won the mandate to build the community with Waterfront Toronto, a public corporation created to revitalize a scrappy expanse of old industrial lands along Lake Ontario.
Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, said that the described Waterfront Toronto as "a groundbreaking project that generates number of jobs and economic benefits for Torontonians, while achieving new levels of environmental sustainability, pioneering a 21st-century mobility network, producing record numbers of affordable housing, and establishing a new model for urban innovation."
Toronto Tomorrow includes three volumes, plus an overview. Volume 1 takes a detailed look at the planning concepts and proposed operational systems. Volume 2 offers an in-depth exploration of the urban innovations, organized around the key areas of mobility, the public realm, buildings and housing, sustainability, and digital innovation. Volume 3 provides an explanation of the partnership that the company hopes could provide a model for future ambitious public-private collaborations in the service of improving urban life.
Across nearly every dimension of urban life — mobility, sustainability, public realm, buildings, and digital innovation — the plan breaks new ground. That includes the first neighbourhood built entirely of mass timber, dynamic streets that can adapt to a neighbourhood’s changing needs, weather mitigation systems, and a thermal grid for heating and cooling.
According to the proposal, a new factory-based construction process would lead to faster and more predictable projects — unlocking billions in private funding that could be applied towards a precedent-setting housing program with 40 percent of units at below-market rates. New mobility initiatives — combined with expansions to public transit and cycling infrastructure — would eliminate the need to own a car, saving a two-person household $4,000 every year. Advanced energy systems would help create the largest climate-positive community in North America while keeping costs the same, or lower, for residents and businesses.
By its 2040 completion, the project would directly create 44,000 jobs and become a serious revenue source for government, generating $4.3 billion in annual tax revenue and $14.2 billion in annual GDP impact, according to an economic analysis conducted by urbanMetrics, a Toronto-based firm with extensive experience on the waterfront.
Working with local partners, Sidewalk Labs would develop less than 7 percent of the eastern waterfront through an innovation campus, featuring a new Google Canadian headquarters and Urban Innovation Institute.
For the rest of the project, Sidewalk Labs would advise on innovation planning, design, and implementation; deploy limited technology (sharing profits with the public sector in certain cases); and provide the option to finance critical infrastructure like the light rail expansion. Sidewalk Labs would earn profits on real estate development, fee income, and interest on infrastructure finance if used.
In aggregate, Sidewalk Labs and its partners propose to provide up to $1.3 billion in funding and financing, which would catalyze $38 billion in investment, primarily by third parties.
The proposal will now be subject to public consultations led by both Waterfront Toronto and the City, and to an evaluation by Waterfront Toronto that will inform the agency’s negotiations with Sidewalk Labs. Any agreement to proceed to implementation of a final plan will require the approval of Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet.