Alphabet Inc.’s proposed Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto took a step closer to becoming a reality on Thursday but leaders from both the company and the city are preaching patience on when that may come to pass.
“I think the point that everybody here was making, and that we listened to very carefully and grew to respect, was that it’s not unreasonable for us to have to prove ourselves first before we think about a bigger scale. And we accept that,” Sidewalk Labs LLC chief executive officer Dan Doctoroff told BNN Bloomberg in a Thursday interview.
“We have to earn people’s trust and we will work together to do that.”
The trial period that Doctoroff alluded to reflected the agreement reached between Sidewalk and Waterfront Toronto to limit the scope of the initial project to a 12-acre site, instead of the proposed 190-acres that the company had hoped for.
The Quayside project has been met with some resistance since it was proposed in 2017, including access to public transit and – most notably – what will become of the data that the wired neighbourhood would be poised to collect.
The chair of Waterfront Toronto, the public corporation in charge of the potential development, said data security is an area of progress for the project, but one that still requires oversight.
“We’ve made significant progress at the beginning of where we’re headed with respect to digital innovation. We still have a long way to go,” Waterfront Toronto chair Steve Diamond told BNN Bloomberg on Thursday.
“We’ve talked about making sure that digital innovation will be democratically accountable.”
The project still faces significant hurdles before it becomes a reality. The project still needs to finalize detailed terms of agreement while Toronto’s city council has to approve the deal. Doctoroff told BNN Bloomberg that he hopes all approvals can be reached by the end of next year.
However, both Diamond and Doctoroff agreed that even if Sidewalk can get shovels in the ground soon, the project needs remain focused on the maintaining the neighbourhood’s sustainability decades from now.
“You have to think about the place as the place, in a way, as a platform that is scalable and changeable as technologies, tastes, and trends change,” Doctoroff said, explaining that the city’s infrastructure from core technologies to the plumbing needs to be accessible so it can be updated with new innovations.
“The architecture that we build has got to be adaptable,” he added.
Diamond, meanwhile, preached vision and legacy when thinking about how a technologically-minded city will survive in future generations.
“What we have to understand is cities, generally, outlive the human life. They will be here for a long period of time and Toronto is a great city,” Diamond said.
“So we have to be careful and make sure that we get it right for the future.”