Quayside Smart City 

Toronto, Ontario

Photo Credit: Sidewalk Labs


Initial Research by: Zoe Goldman

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2018



Project: Quayside Smart City

Type of Urban StrategySmart City, Sustainable Design 

Type of ProjectSustainable Neighbourhood 

Location: Toronto, Ontario 

Date Designed/Planned: 2017

Construction Completed:  Ongoing

Designer: Sidewalk Labs + Waterfront Toronto


The Quayside Neighborhood is a project that rethinks how we build cities and creates a new kind of urban community on Toronto’s waterfront. Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto have partnered up to create a high-tech neighbourhood that will improve the quality of life for its residents by offering a range of housing types, accessible and affordable transit options, and a digital component to access private and public services. The project recognizes Toronto’s existing technology sector and aims to enhance that success by becoming the global hub of the urban innovation industry. The project will provide innovative solutions to urban growth challenges by piloting new strategies on a large scale and creating replicable models for the world (Sidewalk Labs, 2017).



The 12-acre Quayside Neighborhood finds itself on the Eastern Waterfront of Toronto, which is an area that shows huge potential for future development. The Eastern Waterfront formerly functioned as a bustling industrial port, but as the downtown evolved and industries began to relocate, the waterfront land was left behind (Waterfront Toronto, 2017). Under the direction of Waterfront Toronto, the land will be transformed into a climate-positive, mixed-use, mixed-income, resilient community.


The Quayside neighbourhood will be located at Parliament Slip, just 1.5 km south-east of Downtown Toronto. It will be bound by the Gardiner Expressway to the north, Bonnycastle Street to the West, and Queens Quay to the East.

The Quayside development project is comprised of three parcels of land – Quayside Development Block, Parliament Development Lands, 333 Lakeshore Boulevard East - located along Queens Quay East.

-The Quayside Development Block (1.8 hectare/4.5 acres) is owned by Waterfront Toronto, and currently houses 3 low-rise industrial buildings and parking lots.

T-he Parliament Development Lands (0.6 hectare/1.5 acres) is divided into a number of parcels, most of which are owned by the City of Toronto, or the Toronto Port Lands Company (TPLC). A privately owned 2-storey office building currently stands at 307 Lake Shore Boulevard East.

-333 Lake Shore Boulevard East (2.4 hectare/6 acres) is owned by Waterfront Toronto and is currently vacant, used mostly for parking purposes (Waterfront Toronto, 2017).

In order for development along the Eastern Waterfront, including Quayside, a tremendous amount of flood protection work must be completed (Waterfront Toronto, 2017).


Waterfront Toronto was established in 2001 by the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario and City of Toronto to lead the revitalization of the city’s waterfront. Since its creation, Waterfront Toronto has made tremendous progress transforming the waterfront, creating new neighbourhoods that follow their forward-thinking vision.

Waterfront Toronto has plans to rebuild and revitalize 750-acres of land along Toronto’s eastern waterfront. The first phase of this revitalization is the 12-acre Quayside development opportunity, located only 1.5 km from downtown Toronto (Summers, 2018). Waterfront Toronto launched an official Request for Proposals (RFP) in March 2017, seeking an Innovation and Funding Partner for the Quayside development opportunity (Waterfront Toronto, 2017).

In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs was announced as the winning selection as an Innovation and Funding Partner for Waterfront Toronto’s Quayside development opportunity. Sidewalk Labs is a subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet, that was established in 2015. The company aims to improve the quality of life in cities, by using technology to address urban growth challenges (Sidewalk Toronto, 2018).

The two partners formed a third entity, “Sidewalk Toronto,” that is committed to the revitalization of the eastern waterfront. The company strives to create a blueprint for the 21stcentury city, that is much more pedestrian-oriented. The innovative neighbourhood design aims to set new standards for sustainability, affordability, mobility and economic opportunity. Quayside will be co-created by Torontonians through an extensive consultation process. Throughout 2018, Sidewalk Toronto will work closely with the community, stakeholders and government partners in order to create the Master Innovation and Development Plan. Once completed, the plan will require a variety of approvals from Waterfront Toronto, Sidewalk Labs and government branches (Waterfront Toronto, 2017).


The long-term goal of the project is to create a vibrant, connected, climate-positive, resilient, and prosperous community. The project outlines 3 key objectives: sustainability and urban innovation, complete communities, and economic development and prosperity. These objectives will support the long-term goal of the area and create a globally recognized model for a climate-positive urban development. The 3 key objectives are explained as the following:

1. Emphasize sustainability and urban innovation

  • Employ solutions, technologies and strategies to create a sustainable (striving for climate-positive) resilient community
  • Leverage the strength of existing and emerging digital infrastructure (industrial internet of things, artificial intelligence)
  • Pilot on large scale – leading sustainability and resiliency practices (address local, national and global carbon emission reduction targets)

2. Create complete communities

  • Enhance the quality of life through creating mixed use, mixed-income neighbourhood (providing a range of housing types and amenities) and addressing the need for mobility, accessibility and connectivity
  • Provide housing for residents of all income levels (increase the city’s supply of affordable housing by setting aside sufficient land to accommodate 20% of new residential units as Affordable rental housing)
  • Beautifully designed public spaces, compelling cultural amenities, innovative solutions, active programming, integrated transportation and mobility infrastructure

3. Enhance economic development and prosperity

  • Deliver key economic and social benefits that enable Toronto to compete effectively with other top-tier global cities for investment, jobs, talent
  • Serve as a testbed for Canada’s cleantech, building materials and broader innovation-driven sectors
  • Generate prosperity by growing the emerging industry hubs on the waterfront (including employers and job creators in the urban innovation and broader technology sectors)

(Sidewalk Labs, 2017)


Quayside will be constructed based on Sidewalk Labs’ urban innovation platform. The urban innovation platform allows for a multi-faceted and experimental approach to urban growth challenges, rather than providing rigid solutions. The platform merges the digital and physical layers.

Sidewalks Lab is currently developing the unique digital layer that will layer all elements of the neighbourhood. The digital layer is made up of 4 essential components: sense, map, account, and model. The sense component involves a distributed network of sensors throughout the public realm, and it will collect data about the surrounding environment. The map component provides location information about buildings, shared resources and infrastructure to the public. The account component provides residents with a personalized portal where they can access their private information, and public services. The model component will use all of the data collected to stimulate “what if” scenarios for Quayside, which will help inform planning decisions.

The physical layer describes the infrastructure that makes up any city. Sidewalk Labs’ presents an adaptable approach to the physical layer, designing the city’s infrastructure to be flexible and accessible, ensuring that the infrastructure can evolve with emerging technologies and solutions. For example, a system of utility channels will lie beneath the street level of Quayside. The utility channel will contain major infrastructure, including electrical wires and heating pipes. The channel allows for easy access to utilities in order to maintain and update them without disruption to the neighbourhood above.


Bliss, Laura. “When a Tech Giant Plays Waterfront Developer.” CityLab, 10 Jan. 2018, www.citylab.com/design/2018/01/when-a-tech-giant-plays-waterfront-developer/549590/.

Haggart, Blayne, and Zachary Spicer. “What Quayside Has Taught Us about Smart Cities and Data Governance.” The Conversation, 2 Apr. 2018, theconversation.com/what-quayside-has-taught-us-about-smart-cities-and-data-governance-93905.

Harris, Tamar. “A High-Tech Neighbourhood Could Turn Toronto into a World Renowned Innovation Hub.” The Star, 5 Mar. 2018, www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/03/02/a-high-tech-neighbourhood-could-turn-toronto-into-a-world-renown-innovation-hub.html.

Sidewalk Labs. “Vision Sections of RFP Submission.” Sidewalk Toronto, 27 Oct. 2017, sidewalktoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Sidewalk-Labs-Vision-Sections-of-RFP-Submission.pdf.

Sidewalk Toronto. “Sidewalk Toronto.” Sidewalk Toronto, sidewalktoronto.ca/. Accessed 20 June 2018.

Summers, Nick. “Inside Google's Plan to Build a Smart Neighborhood in Toronto.” Engadget, 16 Mar. 2018, www.engadget.com/2018/03/16/alphabet-google-sidewalk-labs-toronto-quayside/.

Waterfront Toronto. “Quayside.” Waterfront Toronto, waterfrontoronto.ca/nbe/portal/waterfront/Home/waterfronthome/projects/quayside/!ut/p/a0/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOL9DF1cDQ39DbwNQnwtDRydLS3MzB0DjQ2cDfQLsh0VAbp6HFI!/pw/Z7_N1DE11O0KG7OD0AC5HINJ930G4/ren/p=CTX=QCPwaterfront_content_libraryQCPWaterfrontQCAHomeQCPprojectsQCPquayside/p=ns_Z7_N1DE11O0KG7OD0AC5HINJ930G4_WCM_Page.4658872e-46c2-4a90-aac1-107654e08032=2/p=WCM_PI=1/=/. Accessed 20 June 2018.

Waterfront Toronto. “Request for Proposals: Innovation and Funding Partner for the Quayside Development Opportunity.” Waterfront Toronto, 17 Mar. 2017, waterfrontoronto.ca/nbe/wcm/connect/waterfront/3f21abe9-a5bb-4665-8cd3-322e1e13811f/Waterfront+Toronto+-+RFP+No.+2017-13.pdf?MOD=AJPERES


Waste Management:

New construction and design techniques will eliminate waste that occurs during building construction and demolition, such as modular housing and flexible construction. Buildings will experiment with using more sustainable materials, such as mycelium insulation and tall timber skeletons. Quayside will pilot the use of standardized waste containers and a digitally enabled smart chute system that tracks the amount of waste people are disposing of and can charge residents for excessive waste. Additionally, a purple-pipe system will be piloted in order to increase the use of non-potable water for building maintenance and outdoor irrigation.


Quayside is developing a thermal grid, which will use multiple existing sources of energy for heating and cooling buildings. Additionally, Quayside will require that Passive House Standards be applied to all buildings, which will reduce overall energy demand in buildings.

Sustainable Transportation:

Quayside will prioritize walking, cycling, and public transit by restricting private vehicles throughout most of the neighbourhood. In order to promote walking and cycling year-round, Quayside will test a heated pavement system beneath multi-use paths to melt snow, and retractable canopies to protect pedestrians and cyclists from the elements.

Quayside will pilot a self-driving transit shuttle that will run on certain streets of the neighbourhood. In areas where private vehicles are permitted, an adapted traffic light that prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists will be tested.


The Quayside Neighborhood responds to the City of Toronto’s need for more space and supports its economy. The Quayside Neighborhood creates a new identity for the Eastern Waterfront, transforming it from a post-industrial drosscape to a global model for climate-positive urban development. Sidewalk Toronto is the first team to bridge the divide between urban designers and technologists to produce innovative solutions to urban growth challenges and improve the quality of life in cities. The urban innovation platform, specifically the digital layer, sets the project apart from other Smart City Proposals (Bliss, 2018). The Model Component will provide developers, designers, and technology experts with an abundance of information regarding future scenarios, and assist in major decision-making processes (Sidewalk Labs, 2017).


Sidewalk Labs has committed $50 million, and one-years’ worth of engagement to develop a plan for the execution of Quayside (Bliss, 2018).


Toronto is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in North America, which means its context is constantly changing. The number of jobs and residents being funnelled into downtown Toronto is constantly increasing, pushing development towards the waterfront. As Toronto continues to expand, it is faced with challenges such as:

· Managing growth in a sustainable way

· Creating spaces that are inclusive, accessible and affordable

· Providing job opportunities and generating prosperity for its citizens

Quayside presents an opportunity to test innovative solutions to urban growth challenges that make cities more affordable, inclusive, accessible, easier to travel within and more environmentally stable. The neighbourhood will be the first of its kind, one that has a digital layer built directly into its foundation. Sidewalk Labs’ unique urban innovation platform merges digital with the physical environment.

Quayside neighbourhood develops the waterfront parcel of land into a highly sustainable, mixed-use, mixed-income neighbourhood that focuses on providing a range of housing types, amenities, mobility, and accessibility.


Waterfront Toronto was interested in forming a partnership to rebuild and revitalize over 300 hectares of land along the city’s eastern waterfront. In 2017, Waterfront Toronto launched an official Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking an Innovation and Funding Partner for the Quayside development opportunity, the first phase of the eastern waterfront revitalization. The 12-acre neighbourhood development project is being led by Sidewalk Toronto, a partnership formed between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs (Waterfront Toronto, 2018).

Quayside, located between the East Bayfront and Port Lands, aims to help Toronto become the global hub for urban innovation, improving the quality of life in cities by combining urban design and emerging technologies. Quayside is the first of its kind, claiming to be the “world’s first neighbourhood built from the internet up” (Sidewalk Toronto, 2018). The high-tech neighbourhood, underpinned with a digital layer, will put people at its centre, and set new standards for sustainability, affordability, mobility and economic opportunity.


The main role of the designers in the development of the Quayside Smart City is to integrate new technologies into the design of the urban environment. The designers will work with technology experts to produce new construction methods, flexible building models, and adaptable and accessible infrastructure. The designers will use technology as a tool to create a vibrant, connected, climate-positive, resilient, and prosperous community.