Alphabet says Sidewalk Labs unit will build a model urban district in Toronto

Key Points
  • Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs unit says it will build a model urban district in Toronto's Eastern Waterfront
  • The research group is pushing urban design its says can boost the 'livability' of cities by easing traffic congestion and creating more public spaces
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Photo by Bloomberg

Alphabet says its Sidewalk Labs unit will help design a model city district in Toronto as the research group pushes urban design it says can make cities less congested and more affordable.

The campus will be located in Toronto's Eastern Waterfront district and be part of one of "the largest waterfront development projects anywhere in North America," said Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, at an event announcing the project.

Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt and Dan Doctoroff, chief executive of Sidewalk Labs, went to Toronto for the event, also attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Google will move its Canadian headquarters to the district, which will become "a test bed for new technologies," Trudeau said.

The company, which has more than 1,000 workers in Canada, has been buying large tracts of land in Northern California and in other technology hubs to house its growing workforce.

The company is looking to design new types of urban centers that would house employees close enough to their workplace so they can walk, bike or commute via public transit.

Schmidt said the idea for Sidewalk Labs came about years ago when he and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page thought of "all the things we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge...Thank you very much, Canada," Schmidt said, after joking "that's not how it works."

Sidewalk Labs is also doing research into affordable housing and other urban challenges.

"New technology can help cities address their biggest challenges," Doctoroff said. "We looked all over the world to find the perfect place to bring this vision to life. We found it in Toronto," he said.

In a blog post on its website, Sidewalk Labs wrote :

"We are designing a district in Toronto's Eastern Waterfront to tackle the challenges of urban growth, working in partnership with the tri-government agency Waterfront Toronto and the local community."