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Quayside: Some common questions answered

Dec 21, 2018

Earlier this month Waterfront Toronto hosted a Roundtable meeting for interested members of the public to learn more about the Quayside project.

By: Carol Webb

This was an opportunity for us to share goals and objectives for the project and how the Master Innovation Development Plan (MIDP) being developed by Sidewalk Labs will be evaluated. For their part, Sidewalk Labs had the opportunity to outline some of the ideas they are looking to include in the MIDP, and for participants to react and ask questions.

For anyone unable to attend the Roundtable, we have posted recordings of the presentations as well as supporting materials online. You can read more here.

Feedback can be received up until December 21, and we were pleased with the range of responses received and volume of questions posed; which number over 135.

In reading the comments, suggestions and questions, we’ve noticed a few recurring misconceptions about the Quayside project. It is not surprising that a complex, game-changing project like Quayside has left some people confused.

So let’s address those today.

Myth: Waterfront Toronto gave up its ownership of the Quayside lands to Sidewalk Labs

  • Fact: No lands have changed hands in either title or value. The Quayside lands are still owned almost entirely by Waterfront Toronto, with small portions belonging to the City of Toronto and private owners.

Myth: Sidewalk Labs has approval to build a whole city and everything in it.

  • Fact: Sidewalk Labs has only been awarded the opportunity to produce a proposal, known as the Master Innovation Development Plan (MIDP). When complete, the plan will be evaluated on its ability to deliver more affordable housing, reduce energy use and reliance on non-renewable fuel, create jobs and generally improve standards of living. Once the draft MIDP is ready, public consultation will continue.

Myth: Quayside is a done deal and neither governments or the public will get a say

  • Fact: The MIDP will be reviewed by Waterfront Toronto, our government partners, external experts with experience in areas such as land valuation and data governance, and the broader public, and will not move forward without final approval from the Board of Waterfront Toronto. Even if the proposal is approved by Waterfront Toronto, it’s just an endorsement of the plan, which will still need to go through the municipal approval process.

Myth: Quayside is going to be a place where normal municipal by-laws and planning rules do not apply.

  • Fact: As the Director of Toronto’s Waterfront Secretariat told Roundtable participants, should the MIDP be approved, the project will be subject to all municipal by-law and zoning regulations, and will have to also comply with all provincial and federal laws and standards. There may be certain elements of the plan that require working with governments on changes or modifications to existing regulatory frameworks, such as the Ontario Building Code as it relates to tall timber.

Myth: Sidewalk Labs is actually developing a plan for the entire waterfront area

  • Fact: The MIDP will focus on plans for Quayside and may also bring forward proposals that work best at scale. Quayside is not an island, and how it stitches into the fabric of the city and the surrounding neighborhoods needs to also be considered. But, any ideas proposed more broadly than Quayside must achieve the stated goals of the project, be in the public interest, be supported by a business case demonstrating the need for scale to achieve the objectives and remain subject to any and all government approvals.

Myth: Quayside is going to be a “surveillance city” and everyone who enters will surrender their personal data and privacy rights

  • Fact: Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs have publicly, and repeatedly, committed to adhering to the principles of Privacy by Design in regards to any and all data that may be collected should the MIDP be approved and implemented.  

Myth: Quayside lands are valued at as much as $675 million

  • Fact: The $675 million land value attributed to Quayside is very high and doesn’t reflect all of the realities of the site. Land values are constantly changing based on market conditions and—in addition to location—there are a variety factors that can impact the value of land. For example, in the case of Quayside, other factors to consider include the cost to implement infrastructure to service large areas of the site, soil conditions and the costs to remediate, costs related to affordable housing requirements, and challenges presented by building on infill land, to name a few.  It’s not always easy, or appropriate, to compare a site on the waterfront with other sites across the city of Toronto. It is Waterfront Toronto’s standard practice to commission an appraisal immediately prior to undertaking any potential transaction to ensure the most current valuation.

Waterfront Toronto is truly grateful to those who attended the Roundtable and who provided their input online. We look forward to answering your questions and to engaging in more conversations in the new year.


post contributor

  • Carol Webb

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