In an interview with the Financial Post on Tuesday, Stephen Diamond, a veteran Toronto real estate developer and chairman of Waterfront Toronto, expressed doubts about a number of aspects of the project, including Sidewalk Labs’ insistence that they need a guarantee that light-rail transit will be built through the new district. “What does one do after going through a public negotiation, and (assuming) other deals, other issues are resolved, how do you enter into an appropriate arrangement with a private company that is conditional on something beyond your control? ” he said.
Sidewalk CEO Dan Doctoroff said in an interview that in order to meet revitalization, environmental and affordable housing objectives set by Waterfront Toronto, they needed the greater scale of the port lands for their plan. “We do not believe that they have presented strong arguments that that scale is needed,” he said. “Certainly, there was an indication from the beginning, that it was something that they wanted, but it was also something that was clearly indicated in the agreements, that it wasn’t something we were obligated to accept.
The Board of Trade has been broadly supportive of the Sidewalk Labs development for a while, but Kelcey said the public debate around the project has often suffered from a lack of information before the plan was released. “Frankly, it was a lot of shadow boxing and talk about worst-case scenarios,” he said.
Sunil Sharma, director of Techstars Toronto, said he believes the Sidewalk development would be a testbed for urban innovation, and that it would mean Toronto will become a magnet for those sorts of startups. “I believe that with Sidewalk many of those companies are going to look at moving to Toronto, at least for a while, and they may stay here,” he said. “The net benefit will be landing a whole lot of global tech companies.