Alphabet abandons $1billion plan to turn part of Toronto’s waterfront into a smart city

Google‘s parent company Alphabet has abandoned its more than $1billion smart city development in Toronto after two years of controversy over privacy concerns and amid economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sidewalk Labs, also owned by Alphabet, had been proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto’s waterfront into a wired community called the Quayside Project. 

But Sidewalk Labs chief executive Dan Doctoroff said in a statement on Thursday that it is no longer financially viable.

‘As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,’ Doctoroff said.

Google's owner Alphabet has abandoned its more than $1billion smart city development in Toronto after two years of controversy over privacy concerns and amid economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This image showed how company officials envisioned the project once it was completed

Google's owner Alphabet has abandoned its more than $1billion smart city development in Toronto after two years of controversy over privacy concerns and amid economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This image showed how company officials envisioned the project once it was completed

Google’s owner Alphabet has abandoned its more than $1billion smart city development in Toronto after two years of controversy over privacy concerns and amid economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This image showed how company officials envisioned the project once it was completed 

A unit of Google's parent company Alphabet had been proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto's waterfront into a wired community called the Quayside Project. But Sidewalk Labs chief executive Dan Doctoroff said in a statement on Thursday that it is no longer financially viable. This image shows what the project would've looked like once completed

A unit of Google's parent company Alphabet had been proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto's waterfront into a wired community called the Quayside Project. But Sidewalk Labs chief executive Dan Doctoroff said in a statement on Thursday that it is no longer financially viable. This image shows what the project would've looked like once completed

A unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet had been proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto’s waterfront into a wired community called the Quayside Project. But Sidewalk Labs chief executive Dan Doctoroff said in a statement on Thursday that it is no longer financially viable. This image shows what the project would’ve looked like once completed 

'As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,' Doctoroff said. This image shows Toronto residents walking around in what would've been the Parliament Plaza

'As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,' Doctoroff said. This image shows Toronto residents walking around in what would've been the Parliament Plaza

‘As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,’ Doctoroff said. This image shows Toronto residents walking around in what would’ve been the Parliament Plaza 

The project included multiple structures that would've housed apartments and other businesses

The project included multiple structures that would've housed apartments and other businesses

The project included multiple structures that would’ve housed apartments and other businesses 

This aerial image shows the names of different areas in the project, including the Parliament Slip, Parliament Cove, and Parliament Plaza

This aerial image shows the names of different areas in the project, including the Parliament Slip, Parliament Cove, and Parliament Plaza

This aerial image shows the names of different areas in the project, including the Parliament Slip, Parliament Cove, and Parliament Plaza

The company predicted that the project would’ve created 44,000 direct jobs and $14.2billion in annual economic impact 2040. 

Sidewalk Labs had partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre site – a first step toward what it hoped would eventually be a 800-acre development.

Among other things, the development planned to have heated streets to melt ice and snow on contact, as well as sensors that would monitor traffic and protect pedestrians.

But some Canadians balked at the privacy implications of giving one of the most data-hungry companies on the planet the means to wire up everything from street lights to pavement. 

Changes had been made to make it more palatable but some celebrated Google’s decision to scrap it.

‘This is a major victory for the responsible citizens who fought to protect Canada’s democracy, civil and digital rights, as well as the economic development opportunity,’ said former BlackBerry chief executive Jim Balsillie, a smartphone pioneer. 

The company predicted that the project would've created 44,000 direct jobs and $14.2billion in annual economic impact 2040. In this image construction crews are seen building what would've been the Quayside Project

The company predicted that the project would've created 44,000 direct jobs and $14.2billion in annual economic impact 2040. In this image construction crews are seen building what would've been the Quayside Project

The company predicted that the project would’ve created 44,000 direct jobs and $14.2billion in annual economic impact 2040. In this image construction crews are seen building what would’ve been the Quayside Project 

Sidewalk Labs had partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre site. This image shows another angle of what would've been the Parliament Plaza

Sidewalk Labs had partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre site. This image shows another angle of what would've been the Parliament Plaza

Sidewalk Labs had partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre site. This image shows another angle of what would’ve been the Parliament Plaza 

This photo shows what developers would've called the Parliament Slip. The area could've featured water activities in the summer and winter activities like ice-skating when temperatures drop

This photo shows what developers would've called the Parliament Slip. The area could've featured water activities in the summer and winter activities like ice-skating when temperatures drop

This photo shows what developers would’ve called the Parliament Slip. The area could’ve featured water activities in the summer and winter activities like ice-skating when temperatures drop 

Developers wanted to turn this industrial space into a smart city where people could not only rent apartments, but enjoy the waterfront with activities year round

Developers wanted to turn this industrial space into a smart city where people could not only rent apartments, but enjoy the waterfront with activities year round

Developers wanted to turn this industrial space into a smart city where people could not only rent apartments, but enjoy the waterfront with activities year round 

‘Sidewalk Toronto will go down in history as one of the more disturbing planned experiments in surveillance capitalism.’

Doctoroff had said the company was not looking to monetize people’s personal information in the way that Google does now with search information. 

He had said the plan was to invent so-far-undefined products and services that Sidewalk Labs could market elsewhere.

Some wanted the public to get a cut of the revenue from products developed using Canada’s largest city as an urban laboratory.

Concerns in Canada intensified following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and Google.

Complaints about the proposed development prompted Waterfront Toronto to re-do the agreement to ensure a greater role for the official agency. 

A prominent Toronto developer resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board over the project.

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