Sidewalk Labs Reveals Plans for Housing in Quayside District on City’s Waterfront

Sidewalk Labs Reveals Plans for Housing in Quayside District on City’s Waterfront

Sidewalk Labs unveiled a draft site plan for its tech-driven neighbourhood on Toronto’s waterfront Thursday, claiming a large portion of the condos and rental units there will be affordable.

The site plan envisions 12 buildings, each with a mix of residential units on top and retail below.

Sidewalk, a sister company of Google, is a Manhattan-based firm specializing in urban innovation.

Its project would be built on a 12-acre parcel of land at Queens Quay and Parliament St. called Quayside.

Nearly 70 per cent of the project would be residential. It will be roughly split 50-50 between condos and purpose-built rental units, for a total of 2,500 units.

About 5,000 people will live there if the project gets built, a process that would take between three and five years after approvals.

Forty per cent of the units would be “below-market housing,” which would break down this way:

  • A total of 20 per cent affordable rentals, including five per cent “deep affordable” — defined as less than the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s average market rent for the GTA. (The average for a one-bedroom unit, using that yardstick, is $1,202 per month).
  • 15 per cent “mid-range” rentals (100 per cent to 150 per cent of average market rent)
  • Five per cent shared equity purchases for middle income households unable to afford the full downpayment for a condo.


Critics were quick to pounce on the announcement.

Toronto developer Julie Di Lorenzo, who resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board, over her belief Waterfront Toronto’s partnership with Sidewalk Labs on the Quayside project isn’t in the best interest of the corporation and Canada, questioned Sidewalk’s comments about the affordability of the housing units.

“How will that be subsidized? Are there subsidies by our government, or are they using the land value of Quayside to subsidize the housing?

“If the land value of Quayside is being used to subsidize the land value, it is the choice and contribution of our governments — not Sidewalk,” Di Lorenzo said in an email to the Star.

But Mayor John Tory hailed the proposal.

“I am determined to build more housing in Toronto to help address affordability issues,” said Tory, who added that the Quayside plans for 20 per cent affordable housing and 20 per cent middle-income housing are “encouraging.”

In a statement, Waterfront Toronto spokesperson Andrew Tumilty said the corporation is pleased to see that Sidewalk has given “serious attention to sustainability and affordability” in their site plan.

“Both have been critical objectives for Waterfront Toronto from the beginning of this process,” he added

The site plan also calls for the entire community of buildings to be made from mass timber, which should lower construction costs, Sidewalk says.

The project will have minimal parking spaces and prioritize walking, transit and cycling, Sidewalk’s directors say.

“Torontonians want more affordable housing, faster ways to get around the city, safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, a cleaner and healthier environment. That’s what we are aiming to do by creating this new neighbourhood,” said Jesse Shapins, Sidewalks’ director of public realm, and one of Thursday’s presenters, in a statement.

Sidewalk would not estimate the cost of building the project, but said more than 9,000 “direct and indirect jobs” will be created as a result.

The site plan will be similar to final plans included in a draft master innovation and development plan that Sidewalk is hoping to put together for the spring.

The master plan will have to be approved by Waterfront Toronto, a partner in the Sidewalk project, which is planned for a parcel of land named Quayside, near Queens Quay and Parliament St.

The final master plan will also likely require approvals from other levels of government, but a lengthy process involving input from the public, as well as Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel, and other interested parties, must come first.

The project has been dogged by controversy for months over plans by Sidewalk to collect “urban data” from areas in and around the Quayside site.

Sidewalk wants to use the data to “improve the quality of life” for residents at the Quayside site, but critics fear the data could be commercialized, or that privacy of individuals will be breached.

To address the concerns, the company has come up with a lengthy “digital-governance proposal” that calls for an arms-length civic data trust that would set clear rules on data privacy and how data is collected.



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