Saturday, March 28, 2020
February 19, 2020

Waterfront Toronto backs most Sidewalk Labs proposals, including heated pavement and pneumatic garbage tubes

With the final public consultation meeting scheduled for the Sidewalk Labs smart-city project less than two weeks away, government agency Waterfront Toronto is indicating that it wants to go ahead with the project, and that it’s ready to put hundreds of millions of dollars behind some of the key proposals.

On Tuesday, the agency released a so-called “discussion guide” aimed at distilling the thousands of pages of documents generated by the complex and controversial project down to an easier-to-digest subset of proposed “solutions.”

Of the 160 proposals it identifies, it said it supported 144 and that it was willing to fund 11 directly — including modular heated pavement and pneumatic tubes for carrying garbage out of buildings.

Moreover, the agency indicated that it will lobby for government funding and regulatory changes to enable other innovative proposals put forward by Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.

That doesn’t mean all 144 solutions will be built, Waterfront Toronto officials said, since negotiations with Sidewalk Labs need to translate the broad proposal into a firm plan. But Tuesday’s report was the clearest signal yet that after a year of tense negotiation in 2019, Waterfront Toronto is now generally supportive of moving ahead with the project.

Waterfront Toronto chief executive George Zegarac said at the final scheduled consultation session, he’d like public feedback on which ideas from Sidewalk Labs should be the highest priority.

“I think everybody is excited about the opportunities, but it has to be a good deal for the public,” he said.

“Part of the constraint is going to be financial — who’s putting in what money — and what we’d like to hear is what are the things people are interested in building on?”
Zegarac said he expects to put most of the $590 million generated by selling the land for the proposed development back into affordable housing and other services for the new neighbourhood.

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