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Bridge Beat

Nov 1, 2019

Moving ahead with Sidewalk Labs

"Waterfront Toronto yesterday had its Board of Directors approve the original 12 acre Sidewalk Labs proposal with substantial improvements to the plan favourable to the city, Waterfront Toronto and the community.  Overall, exciting new ideas and private money to jumpstart development in the slow-moving waterfront area is a positive step for the city.  Innovation and city politics generally do not go hand-in-hand in Toronto municipal affairs.

Sidewalk Labs was pushing to expand the original 12 acre Quayside site to a much larger 100 acre site for its technology initiative.  This generated significant opposition across the communities and was ultimately dropped as a demand for the deal.

One of the key items in the revised proposal will protect data collected by Sidewalk Labs and will be held by an independent agency as opposed to Sidewalk Labs or an independent trust.  There will be greater rights to access for the intellectual property created and more favourable payment terms for third parties accessing the valuable information.

And most importantly, Sidewalk Labs would be only be permitted to bid on the Quayside lands for development purposes and not given a lead or primary right.  The lands will be sold at fair market value which are currently appraised at $590 million in zone for 3,300,000 ft.² of development.  In reviewing the "yellow book" and the desire to expand the technology area to 100 acres, it is clear that real estate value is a significant driving force behind Sidewalk Labs proposal and initiative.

However, at the end of the day, the real key to developing this Quayside area will be the development of light rail transit.  Currently there is no direct public access and without that, development would not be feasible.  With transit, this area will be the next Liberty Village in my view."


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