Google's parent company is spending $50 million to build a high-tech neighbourhood in Toronto

Footpath Labs
— the urban innovation unit of Google parent company Alphabet — will design a high-tech neighbourhood on Toronto’s waterfront, the company announced today at a press conference.
Called Quayside, the neighbourhood’s plan will prioritise “environmental sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity,” according to Footpath Labs. The city of Toronto and Footpath Labs call the project “Footpath Toronto.”

“This will not be a place where we deploy technology for its own sake, but rather one where we use emerging digital tools and the latest in urban design to solve big urban challenges in ways that we hope will inspire cities around the world,” Doctoroff said Tuesday.

Footpath Labs has committed $US50 million to the project’s first phase, though the 12-acre development is expected to cost at least $US1 billion. Quayside will be located in a primarily publicly-owned 800-acre area called Port Lands — one of North America’s largest areas of underdeveloped urban land. Waterfront Toronto will build infrastructure that helps protect against flooding with help from a recent $US996 million investment from local and national government.

In March 2017, Footpath Labs responded to Toronto’s request for proposals to redevelop the waterfront parcel. The planning process will kick off with a community town hall on November 1, 2017.

Though details of the plan are still unclear, Footpath Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff, a former New York City deputy mayor, has hinted at what the company would like to see in a city. He has spoken about how self-driving cars, embedded sensors that track energy usage, machine learning, and high-speed internet could improve urban environments.

“I like to describe it that we’re in the very early stages of what I call the fourth revolution of urban technology,” Doctoroff previously told Business Insider.

“The first three were the steam engine, which brought though trains and factories that industrialized cities. The second was the electric grid which made cities 24 hours, made them more vertical, made them easier to get around in with subways and streetcars. The third was the automobile, which forced us to really rethink the use of public space in order to protect people from the danger of the automobile. We’re now in the fourth one. We’ve had an urban technology revolution … We’re seeing a real change in the physical nature of our cities.”

Footpath, founded in 2015 by Doctoroff and Alphabet CEO Larry Page, has been looking for over a year for a fitting place to build a large-scale district. One of its earliest and most visible smart-city efforts was replacing phone booths with public WiFi kiosks in Manhattan.

Like Doctoroff, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the conference that he expects Quayside to be a model for other cities around the world.

“Today’s announcement is about creating a new type of neighbourhood that puts people first. Footpath Toronto will transform Quayside into a thriving hub for innovation and a community for tens of thousands of people to live, work, and play,” he said. “I have no doubt Quayside will become a model for cities around the world and make all of our communities even better places to call home.”

Ariel Schwartz contributed to this story.

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