The most innovative district in the world

Sidewalk Labs’ project in Toronto has been feted for the past 18 months as a bellwether for a new wave of tech company led real estate development. This week the Google sibling launched its $1.3bn plans for the 12-acre site, in what they are describing as ‘the most innovative district in the world’. One such innovation will be in the form of building construction, much of which will be high rise ‘mass timber’ and, more generally, built and operated to a very high standard of environmental sustainability (solar, batteries, waste disposal chutes, solar power grid). Public squares and pavements will be protected by ‘raincoats’, ‘lanterns’ and ‘fanshells’. Ground floor uses will be flexible ‘stoa’ (from the Greek word) spaces that cater for multiple uses and will be booked through a leasing platform called Seed Space. Events, activities and community programmes in open spaces will be coordinated by an ‘Open Space Alliance’. Co-living units will share building amenities and cater for a diverse age group and the affordable housing percentage will be high relative to local requirements. These (and more – see link to doc through our website below) would be reasonably cutting edge on their own account, but the real story is in the digital / smart city proposals, which occupy a rather smaller section towards the end of the report. Connection speeds will of course be through the roof (and public) and the design includes ‘urban USB ports’ to connect up digital infrastructure. Sensor-driven data collection and analysis are at the core of the proposals and the developer is avoiding criticism by putting this in the hands of a public ‘Open Data Trust’. The proposals are undeniably exciting, and the real estate community should be taking notes. If Sidewalk Labs are successful, a much wider (350 acre) parcel awaits adjacent to the existing site, as do many more projects on an international stage.