Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, is reconceiving urban planning with one big, high-stakes experiment on Toronto’s waterfront. The company is partnering with Toronto’s government to build Quayside, an innovation district planned by technologists.
On Tuesday, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto released a detailed vision for Quayside, a large swath of undeveloped land on Lake Ontario. According to the plans, Quayside will be about 90 percent residential with 3,000 or so units. It will also be home to commercial space. Google plans to move its Canadian headquarters to Quayside to bolster Sidewalk’s ambitions.
The neighborhood’s roads will be constructed out of modular, precast slabs so that they can be maintained and replaced faster, according to Sidewalk Labs. Those geometric slabs could also light up to signal changes in road use throughout the day. Some will even heat up in extreme cold to melt snow and ice.
Winter weather will also theoretically be kept at bay using shelters and windshields in outdoor spaces. The goal is to double the number of hours people spend outdoors throughout the year in Quayside.
As for roads, Sidewalk envisions a hierarchy of different paths for different uses: high-speed cars, public transit, sophisticated bike lanes, and walking trails.
Sidewalk Labs is primarily looking at tall timber for Quayside’s buildings. If the company goes that route, its buildings would be limited to 30 stories.
Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs are in the midst of a year-long community outreach program designed to engender trust with Toronto’s residents. That period will end in November and then the two groups will decide how to move forward with the ambitious project.