Achieving ambitious priority outcomes

Sidewalk Labs proposes a new development approach that not only meets but exceeds Waterfront Toronto’s five priority outcomes. The measures shown here correspond to the full proposed scale of the IDEA District, which includes the five-hectare Quayside development, which can serve as a demonstration ground for new quality-of-life solutions, as well as the 62-hectare River District, where those solutions can realize their full impact in a financially sustainable way.

Priority Outcome #1

Job Creation and Economic Development

Creating a projected 44,000 direct jobs and $14.2 billion in annual economic impact by 2040

This growth is achieved through a series of initiatives that include accelerating new development through upfront investments in critical infrastructure, such as light rail; relocating Google’s Canadian headquarters to Villiers West as part of a new innovation campus; supporting a new applied research centre called the Urban Innovation Institute with $10 million in seed funding; and contributing $10 million alongside partners to a new venture fund designed to help Canadian companies scale.

Critically, to plan for prosperity with equity, Sidewalk Labs commits to a robust inclusion program, anchored by an ambitious housing vision (see below) and a new workforce development program.

Creating 2,500 manufacturing jobs and catalyzing the mass timber industry

The IDEA District would help Canada become a global leader in a new construction industry focused on mass timber — engineered wood that is as strong and fire-resistant as concrete and steel, but far more sustainable and far easier to manufacture.

To catalyze industry growth, Sidewalk Labs is prepared to invest alongside partners in a new Ontario-based factory for off-site mass timber construction that would support an estimated 2,500 annual full-time jobs over a 20-year period.

The project’s total construction (buildings and infrastructure) could add more than $22 billion in value to the Canadian economy and create over 174,000 years of employment by 2040. At least 10 percent of construction hours would be reserved for low-income and racialized youths, women, and Indigenous people.

Priority Outcome #2

Sustainable and Climate-Positive Development

A climate-positive district that cuts greenhouse gases by 89%

To get there, Sidewalk Labs proposes a series of energy and mobility initiatives:

  • Reducing overall energy demands through energy-efficient building designs inspired by the global “Passive House” movement

  • Eliminating energy waste through digital management tools that help optimize building heating, cooling, and power systems

  • Providing heating, cooling, and domestic hot water via a new type of district energy solution called a thermal grid that captures a variety of clean energy sources

  • Designing an advanced power grid that uses solar energy, battery storage, and real-time energy pricing to reduce the GHG impact of electricity use

  • Improving recycling rates via a smart disposal chain

  • Actively managing stormwater via green infrastructure paired with digital management systems

  • Prioritizing biking, walking, public transit, and electric vehicles

  • Reducing truck deliveries on local streets by coordinating freight through a logistics hub

The full scale of the IDEA District also makes it feasible to create a surplus of clean energy that could then be exported to buildings in other parts of Toronto, fulfilling a climate-positive vision by reducing the city’s overall emissions. With public-sector support, the Sidewalk Toronto project could become the largest, densest climate-positive district in North America — establishing a credible path forward for cities to follow.

Priority Outcome #3

Housing Affordability

An affordable, inclusive community with 40% of units at below-market rates

In Quayside, this housing program includes 20 percent of units for affordable housing (with at least a quarter of these units going towards households with “deep” affordability needs) and 20 percent of units for middle-income households.

To improve long-term affordability, half of all units in Quayside would be purpose-built rentals. The other half (far less than in a typical development) would be owned, with 5 percent earmarked for shared equity programs. Finally, the housing program features a variety of housing options, including co-living, family-friendly housing, and efficient units.

This plan — which would dramatically exceed the rates of affordability being produced in other downtown and waterfront developments — would generate more than 1,700 below-market units in Quayside and Villiers West.

If this vision were applied to the full IDEA District, it could generate around 6,800 affordable housing units and more than 13,600 total below-market units — providing options and opportunities for more Torontonians.

This approach would also achieve the outcome of increasing private funding support for below-market housing through new sources that include from factory-based construction (which unlocks new land value), efficient housing design (which enables developers to build more units on a given site), and other proposed financial tools (such as a condo resale fee to support mixed-income communities).

Priority Outcome #4

New Mobility

More than three-quarters of all trips by transit, walking or cycling.

The plans for the IDEA District would support light rail expansion, provide exceptional bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and encourage on-demand mobility services (such as ride-hail) priced for sharing. An integrated mobility package would bundle all these options, making it possible for households to get around conveniently without the need to own a car — saving two-person households roughly $4,000 per year on transportation spending.

A new mobility management system could improve safety using real-time traffic management tools, such as adaptive traffic signals that can prioritize pedestrians or transit vehicles. A new approach to urban freight would consolidate all deliveries into a neighbourhood logistics hub and then distribute them via a below-grade tunnel system, reducing truck traffic on local streets.

Altogether, Sidewalk Labs projects that these initiatives would lead to more than 77 percent of all trips across the IDEA District being made by public transit or active modes (walking or cycling).

A 91% increase in pedestrian space

Sidewalk Labs estimates that its street designs could provide at least 91 percent more pedestrian space than a business-as-usual development scenario, thanks to street design features such as “dynamic” curb spots that change between road and public space, the dramatically reduced need for curbside parking that results from shared mobility services, and, in the future, the potential for self-driving vehicles to share a right-of-way with public transit without hindering transit efficiency.

Priority Outcome #5

Urban Innovation

Enabling an ecosystem where urban innovations can flourish

At the heart of the IDEA District vision is the ability to create the digital conditions that enable a wide array of third parties to create countless new services designed to improve urban life.

These conditions begin with affordable digital infrastructure, including a powerful ubiquitous connectivity network to improve speed and security, and a standardized mount system to eliminate vendor lock-in.

A second condition is establishing a set of published standards around open-data architecture, access, and sources, enabling third parties to build upon a shared foundation.

A third condition is deploying (with partners whenever possible) a limited set of digital services needed to achieve the other priority outcomes, making the urban data from these services publicly accessible (with the proper protections, including de-identification).

Setting a new standard for responsible data use

Across the IDEA District, Sidewalk Labs proposes that urban data be controlled by an independent entity called an Urban Data Trust charged with balancing the interests of personal privacy, public interest, and innovation. This independent, government-sanctioned steward would establish a clear process for approving any initiatives that involve the use or collection of urban data for all parties, including those proposed by Sidewalk Labs.

Sidewalk Labs proposes that the Urban Data Trust anchor this process around a publicly auditable Responsible Data Use (RDU) Assessment — an in-depth review triggered by any proposal to collect or use urban data — and guided by RDU Guidelines that incorporate globally recognized Privacy by Design principles.

Download the Master Innovation and Development plan.