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Approach to Selecting the Quayside Innovation and Funding Partner: Backgrounder on the Request for Proposal Process

Oct 11, 2018

Map outlining the Quayside location.

Quayside is an approximate 12-acre underutilized development site located at Parliament Street and Lake Shore Boulevard East, within walking distance of Toronto’s vibrant downtown.

Clarification: An image within this blog illustrating the oversight of the RFP process has been updated with a more precise description of the role played by the Board of Directors. The graphic originally described the Board’s role as “Approve the final selection” and has been updated to “Approval to enter into the Framework Agreement” to better specify the Board’s role in the process.

Waterfront Toronto is leading the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront. As a creation of all three orders of government, a fundamental component of our mandate is to promote and protect the public interest. This includes enhancing the economic, cultural, and social value of the waterfront area, creating an accessible and active waterfront for living, working and playing, and promoting and encouraging private sector involvement in developing the waterfront; all of which is to be completed in a fiscally and environmentally responsible way.
Since 2001, Waterfront Toronto has made significant progress transforming the waterfront with its forward-looking vision for new neighbourhoods. In 2016, as we moved towards our next development project, Quayside, we asked ourselves: How do we build a more sustainable city in the face of climate change? How do we create places to live for people of all ages, abilities and incomes? How do we create jobs and prosperity, and support innovative new businesses?
To help us answer these questions, we thought about bringing on a partner that would not only help address pressing urban challenges, like climate change, affordability, and creating jobs and prosperity, but also bring the financial capacity to fund the planning process.
On March 17, 2017 Waterfront Toronto released the Quayside Innovation and Funding Partner Request for Proposal (“RFP”) to the market through local, national and international channels. The Innovation and Funding Partner was selected through a competitive RFP process, which was guided by a Steering Committee, Process Manager and Fairness Advisor.
Here’s the process we followed:

Phase One: Pre-RFP - Market Sounding and Outreach

During the year leading up to drafting the RFP, we engaged in research, aided by our consultants including KPMG and ARUP Canada, to test our thinking and better understand the current state of mind in the marketplace. This research included market sounding interviews with more than 50 companies and institutions. Each two-hour meeting followed the same format, including a presentation on our vision and objectives for Quayside, as well as a structured discussion to understand the market’s enthusiasm for our innovative approach. 
On November 11, 2016, Waterfront Toronto also hosted the “Going to Scale Summit” to deepen our understanding of the market and further validate the findings and observations from the market soundings. More than 50 organizations from across industry, academia, Toronto’s innovation ecosystem and the not-for-profit sectors participated in the Going to Scale Summit.  

Phase Two: Drafting the RFP and Evaluation Criteria

In late-2016, Waterfront Toronto was in the process of completing its Resilience and Innovation Framework for Sustainability. This framework articulates Waterfront Toronto’s overarching policy objectives on sustainability and became an integral part of the vision for Quayside and a consideration in the RFP. In addition, global professional services firm KPMG provided its expertise in creating the evaluation framework. 
Prior to releasing the RFP, the draft document underwent a legal review by Dentons, the legal firm retained to provide procurement legal advisory services throughout the process.

Phase Three: RFP Release and Promotion

The RFP was released to the global marketplace on March 17, 2017. At this point a strict procurement black‐out period came into effect for the duration of the procurement process. This blackout ensured that the procurement process was fair, open and transparent to all Proponents; and, there was no communication between Waterfront Toronto, its consultants or contractors and the Proponents apart from the RFP procurement contact (the “Process Manager”) noted in the RFP document during the blackout period.
The RFP was disseminated and promoted through a variety of methods, including MERX (Canada's electronic tendering service). To broaden reach, additional promotional efforts were applied, including:
  • Canada News Wire (Canadian Comprehensive Technology Package): National distribution;
  • Intelligent Community Forum Canada Newsletter: Distribution to 1,400+ tech companies and economic development professionals across Canada;
  • MIPIM (largest global real estate trade show held in Europe): presentations to international audiences, including keynote plenary;
  • UK Property Forum: distribution to over 60,000 members; 
  • LinkedIn: targeted campaign to an international audience (including UK, UAE, France, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, Hong Kong). Total impressions of approximately 61,500; and,
  • Waterfront Toronto: promoted across its digital and social media channels.
The RFP opportunity received media coverage from:
  • The Globe and Mail
  • BNN (Business News Network)
  • Bloomberg Canada News
  • Metro News
  • Daily Commercial News

Phase Four: RFP Evaluation and Selection Process

The Quayside Innovation and Funding Partner was selected through a Request for Proposal (RFP) with a Best and Final Offer (BAFO) process. This multi‐stage process provides for discussions and negotiations through Commercially Confidential Meetings.
In addition to the seven (7) member Evaluation Committee comprised of Waterfront Toronto staff from a variety of disciplines, the process was overseen by a seven (7) member Steering Committee comprised of representatives from Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors and executive team, as well as external subject matter experts with deep experience in sustainability, resilience, urban innovation, entrepreneurship and urban planning.

This table details the variety of participants involved in the evaluation and selection process

The table above details the variety of participants involved in the evaluation and selection process.

The major steps in this RFP process were:
  1. Issuance of RFP to market (local, national and international)
  2. Optional briefing meeting for potential bidders (attended by approximately 16 companies). 
  3. Initial Submissions by Proponents
  4. Evaluation and shortlist (3 to 5 based on rank order) 
  5. Approval of shortlist by Steering Committee
  6. Commercially Confidential Meetings and Negotiations 
  7. Issuance of final submission requirements
  8. Submission of Best and Final Offers (BAFO) by Proponents
  9. Evaluation and selection of successful Proponent 
  10. Approval of successful Proponent by Steering Committee
  11. Approval by Waterfront Toronto Board


The image above illustrates the oversight of the RFP process. All phases were overseen by the Process Manager and Fairness Advisor.

All phases of this RFP process were overseen by the Process Manager and an independent Fairness Advisor, the Hon. Coulter Osborne, Q.C.. A report from the Fairness Advisor was provided and can be found here
Waterfront Toronto received six (6) submissions, one of which was not compliant with the requirements and was disqualified from proceeding through the process. It is important to note that Waterfront Toronto agreed to keep all proponent information confidential. 
After a detailed evaluation and consensus process by the Evaluation Team (supported by external subject matter experts), and a due diligence review by the Steering Committee, three proponents (the shortlisted proponents) were invited to continue to the next stage in the process.
This stage involved Commercially Confidential Meetings with each of the shortlisted proponents to advance their understanding of the project and clarify their best and final offer (BAFO). These meetings were overseen by the Process Manager as well as the Fairness Advisor and were held with all members of the Evaluation Team. All proponents were offered the same access to the Evaluation Team, in terms of frequency and duration, to seek information and to clarify elements of their submission. 
Waterfront Toronto then issued the final submission requirements and proponents submitted their BAFO. The BAFO submissions were evaluated following the same process as the first stage, including a due diligence review by the Steering Committee.
The Board of Directors, through the Investment and Real Estate Committee (IREC), was briefed on the Quayside project and RFP continuously throughout 2016 and early 2017. The Board of Directors was also briefed regularly through the CEO Report and Quayside specific reports on the progress of the RFP evaluations and the selection (and rationale) of Sidewalk Labs as the preferred proponent. 

post contributor

  • Carol Webb

    Carol Webb is a Senior Manager, Communications and Public Engagement with Waterfront Toronto.