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Open Letter from Waterfront Toronto Board Chair, Stephen Diamond regarding Quayside

To all members of the public interested in the future of Toronto’s waterfront,
Waterfront Toronto has received the draft Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) proposed by Sidewalk Labs. The review and evaluation process now begins. It is Waterfront Toronto’s responsibility, informed by consultation with the public, technical experts, and all three levels of government to determine if the ideas in this proposal are in the public interest and respond to the objectives for Quayside that we agreed to with Sidewalk Labs in July 2018 (as reflected in the Plan Development Agreement). 
It is important to know that Waterfront Toronto did not co-create the MIDP. While Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs did work together earlier in the process to do research, generate ideas, and consult the public, the roles of the two organizations then separated, allowing Waterfront Toronto to focus on creating a robust framework for review and evaluation of the MIDP. Sidewalk Labs’ responsibility is to prepare and submit the MIDP. The MIDP is subject to the approval of Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors and Sidewalk Labs.
Based on our initial review of the MIDP, there are a number of exciting ideas that respond to challenges we face, particularly related to environmental sustainability and economic development. There are also proposals where it is clear that Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs have very different perspectives about what is required for success. Here are early examples of what concerns us:
  • Sidewalk Labs proposes the up-front creation of an IDEA District that covers a much larger area than the 12 acres of Quayside. Waterfront Toronto has told Sidewalk Labs that the concept of the IDEA District is premature and that Waterfront Toronto must first see its goals and objectives achieved at Quayside before deciding whether to work together in other areas. Even then, we would only move forward with the full collaboration and support of the City of Toronto, particularly where it pertains to City-owned lands.
  • Sidewalk Labs proposes to be the lead developer of Quayside. This is not contemplated in the PDA. Should the MIDP go forward, it should be on the basis that Waterfront Toronto lead a competitive, public procurement process for a developer(s) to partner with Sidewalk Labs. 
  • Sidewalk Labs’ proposals require future commitments by our governments to realize project outcomes. This includes the extension of public transit to Quayside prior to development, new roles for public administrators, changes to regulations, and government investment. These proposals raise important implementation concerns. They are also not commitments that Waterfront Toronto can make. 
  • Sidewalk Labs has initial proposals relating to data collection, data use, and digital governance. We will require additional information to establish whether they are in compliance with applicable laws and respect Waterfront Toronto’s digital governance principles.  
Waterfront Toronto is preparing a “Note to Reader” to support the public review of the MIDP. It will be released shortly, and identifies a number of areas of the Sidewalk Labs proposal that we understand are of particular public interest. We want to know, what do you like about the MIDP? What concerns you?  What risks would you like to see Waterfront Toronto consider? And under what conditions (if any) you would want to see these proposals explored further? We encourage you to participate in the upcoming public consultation process to share your thoughts on these questions with us, along with any other comments or advice you would like us to consider.
As we have said before, this project has stirred vigorous debate and, regardless of the outcome, raises issues to consider. Whether the Quayside project proceeds or not, the conversation we are having is important for all of Toronto. 




Stephen Diamond
Chairman of the Board of Directors,
Waterfront Toronto


Video: Message from Waterfront Toronto Board Chair, Stephen Diamond regarding Quayside


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