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Advisory panel raises range of concerns about Sidewalk Labs’ plans for Quayside

TORONTO — An advisory panel has raised a range of concerns about Sidewalk Labs’ plan for the Quayside development on Toronto’s waterfront.

Preliminary commentary from Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel (DSAP) released Tuesday said the plan from Google’s sister company Sidewalk is “frustratingly abstract” and that some of the innovations proposed were “irrelevant or unnecessary.”

“The document is somewhat unwieldy and repetitive, spreads discussions of topics across multiple volumes, and is overly focused on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how,’ ” said the report on the panel’s comments.

Some on the 15-member panel, an arm’s-length body that gives expert advice to Waterfront Toronto, have also found the scope of the proposal to be unclear or “concerning.”

The report says that some members also felt the official Sidewalk plan did not appear to put the citizen at the centre of the design process for digital innovations, and raised issues with the way Sidewalk has proposed to manage data that is generated from the neighbourhood.

The panel’s early report is not official commentary from Waterfront Toronto, the multi-government body that is overseeing the Quayside development, but is meant to indicate areas that needs improvement.

The panel, chaired by University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, includes executives, professors, and other experts on technology, privacy, and innovation.

Sidewalk Labs spokeswoman Keerthana Rang said the company appreciates the feedback and already intends to release more details in October on the digital innovations it hopes to implement at Quayside.

“Most of the feedback we see in this interim report has been conveyed to us throughout our engagement with DSAP over the last few months,” said Rang in an emailed statement.

“It is one of the reasons why we are producing the Digital Innovation Appendix which will include a comprehensive list of technology that would be deployed in Quayside, how we would support Toronto’s technology ecosystem, and our research work on data governance.”

Sidewalk released its draft Master Innovation Development Plan in June, laying out its vision for the redevelopment on Toronto’s eastern waterfront.

The company set out details for a residential-focused 4.8-hectare Quayside site, but also proposed it develop a nearby eight-hectare site as an office development including a Google Canada head office. Sidewalk also proposed design principals that could extend across the 77-hectare area to create a wider innovation district.


Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press

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