Quayside Project - Update

Quayside Project - Update

The Waterfront is a unique treasure of our city. It needs a bold vision. And we need to get it right. Waterfront revitalization is a long-term and complex project, so it will not be finished overnight and it does not happen automatically without hard work. We must continually renew our commitment to revitalizing the waterfront.

Quayside is the next area identified for transformation under a strategic plan laid out by Waterfront Toronto. I vow to see that the public’s interests are thoroughly protected as we review all aspects of the proposal for Quayside. Some of what Sidewalk Labs has shown so far is the first of its kind and scale in Toronto and Canada. A new approach of combining urban planning with more detailed data raises issues of privacy in the context of neighbourhood development that we in Toronto have not ever had a public conversation about before. Let’s have and lead that conversation.

Below is a fulsome update on what has happened so far, timelines, next steps, and more.


The Area

Quayside as defined in this project is a 12 acre (4.8 Ha) area that includes lands in the East Bayfront and Keating Channel precincts, focused around Queens Quay and Parliament Street. While most of these lands are owned by Waterfront Toronto, the City owns 1.5 acres, and a smaller portion is privately held.

The Project

Waterfront Toronto's mandate is to revitalize our waterfront lands into healthy, inclusive and sustainable communities built with high quality design. Quayside is the first portion of the waterfront to be revitalized where Waterfront Toronto itself owns a significant amount of land. At Quayside, Waterfront Toronto aims to build a landmark neighbourhood that would be net carbon positive, a hub for innovation employment, and a complete community exceeding all current affordable housing standards. As a test case for the latest planning practices, building methods, and technological innovations, Waterfront Toronto aims to pilot these initiatives at Quayside in a focused project area in order to showcase the example of a truly sustainable community to the world.

The selection of Sidewalk Labs

Because Waterfront Toronto is not a builder or developer, they decided to seek an "Innovation and Funding Partner" to co-create a vision, business plan, and implementation strategy for this project. In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs, a New York based firm that describes itself as an urban innovation organization whose parent company is Alphabet Inc., (parent company of Google) was selected after a competitive RFP process. This open RFP considered 5 submissions from international and local companies.

Under the agreement, Sidewalk Labs is required to prepare a Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP), a roadmap for their proposal for the design and development of Quayside.

This roadmap will outline a vision for the Quayside site and make specific proposals in the areas of affordable housing, mobility, buildings, sustainability, public realm, community facilities, digital governance and data applications.

The roles of Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs

Under the July 2018 Plan Development Agreement, Waterfront Toronto remains the master planner and development lead in the designated waterfront area. Sidewalk Labs' defined role is to provide its expertise in planning, engineering, innovation and technology.

The City of Toronto is not an author of the MIDP roadmap and will conduct its own reviews and consultations when the plan is produced.

Consultation to date

Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto have undertaken extensive public engagement during the development of the MDIP roadmap, including:

  • Town Hall launch and four Public Round Table meetings
  • Presentations at waterfront area neighbourhood associations
  • A Reference Group of 36 Toronto residents from a diversity of backgrounds.
  • A Fellows program of young leaders
  • A Quayside Stakeholder Advisory Group of waterfront area stakeholders
  • An open house with workshop programming at 307 Lake Shore Blvd E.
  • Design Jams including youth and seniors

Digital Governance

During this consultation process, Waterfront Toronto determined that additional input into issues of digital governance was required to inform evaluation of aspects of the MIDP roadmap that dealt with data collection and privacy.

Combining urban planning and data raises issues of privacy in the context of neighbourhood development that we in Toronto have not ever had a public conversation about before. This will be, and must be, a critical part of our review of the Quayside proposals. As part of their work, Waterfront Toronto formed two new bodies:

-          A Digital Strategy Advisory Panel of arms-length experts on digital governance, data privacy and ethical use of technology

-          A Civic Labs series of workshops by digital governance and data use experts, academics and project team members

Waterfront Toronto has also outlined Digital Governance Framework Principles by which the MIDP will be evaluated in the July 2017 Plan Development Agreement.

Draft MIDP, Review and Next Steps

Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs will hold another public Round Table this winter before it finalizes its draft MIDP roadmap and presents it to the public.

An additional public Round Table will be held before the summer for input on the draft plan.

Waterfront Toronto evaluation of the draft MIDP

After the draft MIDP is presented, Waterfront Toronto will undertake its evaluation of the submitted plan.

Currently, Waterfront Toronto is developing an evaluation framework for the MIDP in consultation with public stakeholders. The MIDP will need to demonstrate how it will achieve the employment, climate positive, housing affordability, mobility, and innovation goals that have been set established through Waterfront Toronto's strategic planning.

Waterfront Toronto will submit its recommendations on the draft MIDP roadmap to its Board of Directors for a decision before the end of 2019.

The City of Toronto will conduct its own review and approval of Quayside matters

After the final draft MIDP is produced, the City of Toronto will undertake its own review and public consultation process. There are a number of areas where the City must provide its direction. The City owns a portion of the land in the Quayside area, and controls its disposition. The site is subject to municipal by-law and zoning regulations, and will need approvals through City Planning processes. New construction methods will require changes to Building Code regulations.

As well, aspects of the plan that require further review and policy decisions will need to go through a City process, such as digital governance and privacy issues as mentioned above. The City will determine what existing or new regulatory processes are required when the MIDP is submitted. Each of these various processes will have opportunity for public input.

Quayside approval and development will require continuous public review

The Quayside project is a complex and ambitious initiative.  The project will require extensive layers of approval through the City of Toronto. City reviews will involve public input based on existing regulations.  These reviews will also determine if new policy needs to be created, to be undertaken under a public process.

Over the coming weeks and months, please stay tuned for further information, opportunities to share your thoughts, and discussion on the Quayside project and the critical public policy conversations that will continue as we move forward.