From the beginningThe plan for Sidewalk Labs (a subsidiary of Alphabet and, more broadly, a relative of Google) to develop a $ 1.3 billion technology-based real estate project on the Toronto coast has been controversial.
Privacy advocates had legitimate concerns about the ability of the Google-affiliated company to collect near-complete data from residents of the settlement or from city dwellers who had broken into the high-tech panopticon.
But alphabet Sidewalk Labs The leadership and even Canada's popular Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had high hopes for the project.
Startups in real estate technology saw a record $ 3.7 billion from investors in the first quarter of the year.
“Successful cities around the world are facing the same challenges of growth, from rising costs of living that weigh on the middle class, traffic jams and increasingly long commutes to the challenges of climate change. Sidewalk Labs searched around the world for the perfect place to create a district focused on solutions to these pressing challenges and we found it on Toronto's Eastern Waterfront – along with the perfect public sector partner, Waterfront Toronto "Said Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, the former Deputy Mayor of New York, in a statement announcing the launch in 2017. “This will not be a place where we use technology for ourselves, but a place where we use new digital tools and the latest developments in urban design. Solve big urban challenges in ways we hope cities will inspired around the world. "
From the perspective of Sidewalk Labs, the Toronto Project would be an ideal laboratory for the Company and the City of Toronto to study the benefits and effectiveness of the latest and greatest new technologies to improve city life and make the environment more sustainable .
The company's stated goal in 2017 was to “create a place that encourages innovation in energy, waste and other environmental challenges to protect the planet; a place that offers a range of transportation options that are cheaper, safer, and more convenient than the private car; a place that includes adaptable buildings and new construction methods to reduce housing and retail space costs; a place where public spaces welcome families to enjoy nature day and night, all year round; A place that digital technology and data enhances without giving up the privacy and security everyone deserves. "
From a purely technical point of view, the integration of these new technologies in a single location made sense as a test case. From a community development perspective, it was a nightmare. Toronto residents saw the development as little more than a showroom for a range of innovations that could invade privacy and then turn Sidewalk into businesses – or a place where startups could share their technology with a potentially ignorant person Population could test.
When the economic impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic became apparent in March of this year, it seemed like a good time for Sidewalk Labs to close the project.
“(As) unprecedented economic uncertainty has emerged worldwide and in the Toronto real estate market. It has become too difficult to make the 12 acre project financially viable without sacrificing the core parts of the plan we jointly developed with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community, ”Doctoroff said in a statement. "And so, after much deliberation, we came to the conclusion that it no longer makes sense to continue with the Quayside project."