Google's parent company just reached an agreement with Toronto to plan a $50 million high-tech neighborhood

Footpath TorontoA conceptual illustration of Footpath Labs’ Quayside neighbourhood.
  • On Tuesday morning, Waterfront Toronto’s board unanimously agreed to work with Sidewalk Labs to develop a 12-acre swath of the city into a high-tech neighborhood..
  • Footpath Labs, the urban-innovation arm of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, had committed $US10 million for the planning process, and an additional $US40 million in investment has now been unlocked. The entire development is expected to cost at least $US1 billion.
  • The company has been quiet about the exact plans for the neighbourhood, but its CEO, Dan Doctoroff, has spoken about how urban environments could be improved through self-driving cars, machine learning, high-speed internet, and embedded sensors that track energy usage.

Sidewalk Labs — the urban innovation arm of Google parent company Alphabet — just got the green light to plan a high-tech neighborhood on Toronto’s waterfront.

On Tuesday morning, the board of Waterfront Toronto — the organization administering revitalization projects along the Canadian city’s waterfront — unanimously agreed to work with the company to design the neighborhood. Final approval to physically develop the plans will likely happen next year.

Called Quayside, the neighbourhood will be designed to prioritise “sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity,” according to Footpath Labs. The city of Toronto and Footpath Labs call the larger project “Footpath Toronto.”

Footpath had already committed $US10 million for the planning process, and an additional $US40 million in investment was unlocked with the board’s approval. The entire 12-acre development, however, is expected to cost at least $US1 billion, The Wall Street Journal estimated.

The agreement “lays out a path towards a transparent, collaborative partnership with Waterfront Toronto and the people of Toronto,” Josh Sirefman, Footpath Labs’ head of development, told Business Insider in a statement. “We look forward to working together to develop a groundbreaking plan to improve the lives of people living in Toronto and cities like it around the world.”

Footpath TorontoFootpath TorontoAn aerial view of the site for Quayside.

The company has been quiet about the exact plans for the neighbourhood, but Footpath Labs’ CEO, Dan Doctoroff, has spoken about how urban environments could be improved through self-driving cars, machine learning, high-speed internet, and embedded sensors that track energy usage.

“We are excited to take this next step with Footpath Labs to set the stage for a transformational project on the waterfront that addresses many critical urban issues faced by Toronto and other cities around the world,” Waterfront Toronto tweeted Tuesday.

Based on 2017 renderings, it looks as if Footpath Labs wants Quayside to be a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood. The preliminary illustrations include bike-share systems, apartment housing, bus lines, and parks.

Footpath TorontoFootpath TorontoAnother conceptual illustration of Quayside.

The project has been in the works for more than a year. In March 2017, Footpath Labs responded to Toronto’s request for proposals to redevelop the waterfront parcel. The planning process kicked off with a community town-hall meeting in November where residents discussed their thoughts and concerns about the project.

Business Insider previously reported that locals had expressed worries that Quayside could become a “new Silicon Valley,” bringing issues like gentrification, higher housing prices, and income inequality.

The plan-development agreement became public on Tuesday afternoon after Waterfront Toronto and Footpath Labs signed the deal.

Correction – July 31: An earlier version of this story misstated that Footpath Labs gained final approval to build Quayside. The company has reached an agreement with Waterfront Toronto to plan the neighbourhood.

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