The Innovation Plan
Plentiful, accessible, and exciting public space filled with people all day and all year is a fundamental element of urban life, not an exclusive amenity. Our three-part strategy to the public realm incorporates new design practices and emerging digital tools to help people spend more time outdoors, together.
First, Sidewalk Labs plans to deliver more space. Increased walking, cycling, and transit options — coupled with ride-hail services and eventually self-driving vehicles — create an opportunity to reclaim street space for the public realm. This expansion of open space not only enables more public activity but also creates more room for green landscaping and urban nature. To make the most of this space, Sidewalk Labs plans to design flexibility into parks and plazas and to use a digital planning and evaluation tool that can help maximize access to open space while preserving the dense downtown development that creates housing and jobs.
Second, Sidewalk Labs plans to enable open space to be activated more of the time. Adaptable ground-floor spaces could evolve throughout the days, seasons, or years and accommodate a much wider variety of uses than conventional developments — from traditional retail, to social or community initiatives, to production work. A digital leasing and operations system would enable easier set-up for short-term pop-ups and co-tenancy arrangements among businesses with diverse operating hours. A carefully engineered outdoor comfort system could respond to real-time weather patterns to provide shade on sunny days and protection on rainy or snowy ones.
Finally, Sidewalk Labs plans to make space more responsive to the needs of the community. Shared physical infrastructure (such as communal access to projectors or power) would empower the community to program public spaces, making it easy to stage events, such as art installations or local gatherings. A real-time map of park assets — from drinking fountains to garbage bins to utility pipes — would help managers operate and maintain these spaces in ways that keep them active and detect infrastructure issues early.