New Vision for Quayside After Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto Split

New Vision for Quaysidei n Waterfront Toronto

Waterfront Toronto has recently announced that they will be re-launching the process of finding a new partner to develop the Quayside neighbourhood after parting ways with Sidewalks Labs back in June 2020. The decision to cancel the proposal was mainly due to the economic uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic posed at the time.

The original plan was to develop 12-acres of under-utilized land in the Quayside neighbourhood between Queens Quay East and Parliament Street. The vision to develop this land into an innovative smart-city was originally proposed by Sidewalk Labs, the sister-company of Google. Sidewalk Labs partnered with Waterfront Toronto in the hopes of creating a vibrant, mixed-use master-planned community that would feature data-driven technology, self-operating vehicles, affordable housing and employment opportunities.

Sidewalk Labs was awarded the partnership back in 2017 when Waterfront Toronto first sent out a request for proposal that called for an innovative and funding partnership. Since then, Sidewalk Labs spent over a year and a half working with the federal, provincial and municipal governments, while simultaneously speaking with Torontonians to come up with a solution to revitalize the area.

As a result, Waterfront Toronto’s announcement to find a new partner to develop the Quayside neighbourhood will be focused on finding a development partner that has experience, a solid design portfolio and the proper financial resources to maintain the partnership.

New development in Quayside Area
Quayside development area is highlighted in red. Image from waterfrontoronto.ca

Waterfront Toronto’s recent launch of an international competition known as the Quayside Development Opportunity is asking for requests for qualification (RFQ) to create a master-planned development on one of the last parcels of unutilized land on the city’s waterfront.

The vision for Quayside is to create a “dynamic, inclusive and resilient community that will help reorient the city towards Lake Ontario. There is no doubt that this area of our waterfront represents an extraordinary opportunity to create one of Canada’s most sustainable low-carbon communities, serving people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities and incomes,” as mentioned on Quayside’s website.

Some of the challenges with Sidewalk Lab’s initial proposal were the concerns raised by the company’s request to collect data to track the public’s movement and activity on the grounds of the community.

This request created some controversy among citizens as the fear of privacy issues started to arise. Sidewalk Lab’s reasoning for this was to use the data as a way to improve the overall community. CEO of Waterfront Toronto, George Zegarac, addressed this concern for future RFQs by stating "Technology can be a solution, but our focus for Quayside is on creating a complete community that will reorient Toronto towards the water. Our work with the community has told us that we need to be able to address service gaps such as facilities for aging in place, affordable housing, and accessibility."

The new vision of the Quayside redevelopment is to create a vibrant and sustainable master-planned community that incorporates different types of housing, including affordable housing and long-term-care homes, bright green space, connections to the waterfront, recreational facilities, cultural amenities, large gathering spaces for the public, retail and more.

A new LRT line is also recommended for this master-planned community, but isn’t a requirement. Meg Davis, Chief Development Officer at Waterfront Toronto, says “We want the LRT and we want to advocate for that because ultimately it is the right answer in the long term, but we can still go ahead without it.”

New Master Planned Commiunity at Quayside - Rendering
Rendering by Standard Practice from waterfrontoronto.ca

With a brand-new vision and lessons learned from working with Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto is inviting submissions from developers that have the “experience, capacity and passion” to create a dynamic neighbourhood that follows their vision, meets the needs of the community, exceeds their expectations for design excellence and their Green Building Standards.

Stephen Diamond, Chair of the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors, issued a statement prior to the competition launch, "The people of Toronto have told us that they want to see a bold vision realized on the waterfront that reflects the confident, welcoming, and imaginative civic spirit of our city. We are looking for leaders in the development field that will share our ambition to create a place that fuses Quayside to the water, and provides more beauty, utility, and originality than previously imagined. We want Quayside to be timeless, adaptive, and to propel us into our rightful place among the great waterfronts of the world.”

The Waterfront Toronto Board also says that they want to provide a place that offers year-round activities including cycling, swimming, dining, shopping, boating and ice skating. The RFQ submission deadline is May 12, 2021 and Waterfront Toronto hopes to have a partner named for the Quayside project by the Fall.