If you’re an urban planner, city official, or just an aspiring urbanist like me, you’ll no doubt have heard the big news from Toronto – Waterfront Toronto recently chose Sidewalk Labs as their partner to redevelop Quayside, a neighbourhood with enormous potential right to the east of the downtown core.
I’ve followed Sidewalk Labs for some time as they sought a site to build out their vision for the future of cities, and I’m a fan of Canadian cities overall – so this is a particularly exciting development for me. Canadian cities already rank astoundingly high for livability (Toronto recently came in 4th in a global livability report), and this new endeavor is likely going to solidify their place for decades to come.
As an active student of modern urbanism (who should have pursued a minor in planning when I had the chance), I’m always eager to stay abreast of all the current trends and best practices in city planning. I knew that Sidewalk’s response to Waterfront Toronto’s RFP would contain a forward-thinking vision that could push the field of urban innovation in new directions, and it did not disappoint.
I went through the 196-page (!!) public vision document and found quite a few intriguing ideas – some that were new applications of existing technology (e.g. self-driving taxibots) and some that were radically ambitious (e.g. overhauling building codes to be metric outcomes-based). I’ll share some of my feedback for the vision below, including questions I’d raise with Sidewalk regarding the feasibility/scalability of some of their proposals.