- Waterfront Toronto, established by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, launched a competition last week to select a development partner for the Quayside lands. The announcement comes close to a year after Sidewalk Labs announced it would drop its smart city plans for the area, citing "unprecedented economic uncertainty."
- The international competition will seek partners to help Waterfront Toronto achieve its goals to design a "sustainable community for people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities and incomes." The area will provide affordable housing options, in addition to amenities and support for seniors to live independently and age in place, according to the official announcement.
- After the initial request for qualifications (RFQ) phase, a short list of participants will be selected to help choose a winning development team that can support a resilient and inclusive community design. RFQs will be accepted through May 12 and a winner should be announced by the end of 2021.
The 12-acre Quayside site is one of the last underdeveloped portions of land near Toronto’s downtown and has been the source of much attention in recent years.
Sidewalk Labs' now-defunct Quayside project had been in the works for more than two years, including a number of potentially innovative smart city solutions like weather-adapting technology and plans to construct a high-rise neighborhood with mass timber.
And although the project did receive praise for its ambitious and futuristic design elements, it was also criticized by locals for its controversial data management plans and other privacy concerns. In fact, that distrust appears to be growing into an overall skepticism for smart city-related projects.
"Technology can be a solution, but our focus for Quayside is on creating a complete community that will reorient Toronto towards the water," Waterfront Toronto CEO George Zegarac said in an email. "Our work with the community has told us that we need to be able to address service gaps such as facilities for aging in place, affordable housing, and accessibility."
Inclusive planning for seniors appears to be a key component for the community's future design plans. Waterfront Toronto would like to see integrated living centers, where seniors can transition from independent to assisted living or long-term care, according to Zegarac.
And there's certainly a demand for such services locally, as the Central Toronto-area currently has a waitlist of 5,7000 people for long-term care facilities, according to a statement from President and CEO of the University Health Network Kevin Smith.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for the nation to look at new models of care for our seniors and we strongly support Waterfront Toronto's proposal to use its Quayside development to pilot a new model that will provide vital long term care capacity to a city with growing wait lists," Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre President and CEO Andrew J. Smith said in a statement.
Ultimately, Waterfront Toronto learned a lot from the planning work completed with Sidewalk Labs, according to Zegarac, particularly in regard to sustainability and urban design standards. But the group is now moving forward with a more locally led vision.
"A critical difference for Quayside now will be that the design of public realm, parks, streetscapes, and open community spaces will be led by Waterfront Toronto," he said. "As we move to build Quayside we are now looking for development teams that have the experience, capacity and passion to deliver a distinctive neighborhood that gives expression to our vision."
Correction: This story has been updated. The name of the company is Waterfront Toronto.