First public meeting questions scope of Toronto Quayside project, Google’s ambitions

Attendees raised questions about Google's goals behind the project

Waterfront Toronto held the first of many public meetings on July 16th regarding Google’s proposal to transform part of the city’s waterfront into a bustling smart neighbourhood.

Over 100 people joined the meeting at the North York Civic Centre, where they split into 16 groups for side sessions. These sessions let attendees dive into their impressions of the massive 1,500-page proposal brought before Waterfront Toronto, the three-government agency overseeing the project.

Waterfront Toronto officials stressed that the primary goal of the opening sessions was to deal with confusion around the immensity of the proposal.

The attendees participated in the smaller side sessions before returning to the main council chambers near the end of the three-hour meeting, where a team of independent facilitators summarized their main concerns. According to the Toronto Star, which attended one of the breakout sessions, there were several worries. These included the scope of the project, the absence of a summary of Google’s ambitions and a lack of detail about the search giant’s subsidiaries’ partnerships.

Others raised objections about regulatory changes required by the proposed project. However, Waterfront Toronto dispelled some misconceptions and said approval of Sidewalk Labs’ expanded Quayside proposal would mean a continuation of the plan, not a done deal. Further, any such plan must meet all other regulatory approvals before moving forward.

On top of that, questions surfaced about the increased administrative authority sought by Google and how it would integrate into existing structures of government.

A separate session on digital innovation produced a suggestion that Waterfront Toronto should create a panel of experts. These experts would keep Google honest regarding whether the technology it proposed was the only technology available for a given application.

Questions about funding and new LRT line

Previously, Sidewalk Labs stated it would be the lead real estate developer in the project and would provide, along with local partners, up to $1.3 billion CAD in funding and financing. The funding would be used to create the neighbourhood, including residential, commercial and office spaces.

Its draft document also wants to turn a chunk of the eastern waterfront into an Innovative Development and Economic Acceleration (IDEA) District. The area would include the 12-acre Quayside site near Parliament Street and Queens Quay East, along with 20 acres of Toronto-owned, undeveloped property in the Port Lands called ‘Villiers West.’

Further, Sidewalk says a new light-rail transit (LRT) system on the waterfront is essential to the project. Critics note the city has planned to build an LRT line for a decade and expects a $1.2 billion price tag. Thus far, the LRT has remained unfunded.

Over the next two weeks, Waterfront Toronto will hold three more public consultations. The first is scheduled for July 17th at the Radisson Admiral Hotel on 249 Queens Quay West and will run from 6pm to 9pm.

There will also be a consultation on July 20th from 9am to noon at the George Brown College Auditorium at 51 Dockside Drive, and on July 23rd from 6 to 9pm at the Chestnut Residence and Conference Centre at 89 Chestnut Street.

Waterfront Toronto told the Toronto Star that the first phase of consultations would likely expand to a second round in the fall. Further, officials said they plan to record and make all subsequent meetings publicly available, as well as post written summaries online.

Source: Toronto Star