City of the Future? Humans, Not Technology, Are the Challenge in Toronto

“There’s an enormous amount of interest and also quite a bit of concern,” said Shauna Brail, the director of the University of Toronto’s urban studies program. “It will be a political issue no matter what.”

Quayside is the most significant new project for Sidewalk Labs, an urban technologies company that is part of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Set up in 2015, it is headed by Daniel L. Doctoroff, a former New York City deputy mayor and former chief executive of Bloomberg.

Mr. Doctoroff, who peppers conservations about Quayside with references to “consultation” and “transparency,” came to Toronto fully expecting concerns and criticism.

“If you’re going convince people about new ideas, they have to be a part of it,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “The whole notion of this place as a platform is apparently more democratic than, we think, traditional place-making has actually been.”


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the project will create “technologies that will help us build smarter, greener, more inclusive cities.”

Chris Wattie/Reuters

During its first two years in operation, Sidewalk looked at 52 places in the United States and several others around the world for a site to begin building cities of the future, Mr. Doctoroff said. But in Toronto, the company’s interests found a match. An agency that included the federal government, the city and the province of Ontario was looking for a developer for about 800 acres of federally owned waterfront just east of downtown.

It was last developed during the 1950s, when officials hoped that the St. Lawrence Seaway would allow trade with Europe to become an integral part of Toronto’s economy.

Little of that vision came to fruition. The area is now home to overflow parking for car dealerships, an abandoned grain elevator and docks lined with small, slightly shabby cruise boats…

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