Everyone was invited to sit down with fellow Torontonians and visitors from neighbouring cities (and even some people from the U.S.) to discuss the potential of the project, as well as some challenges.
There were boards set up around the room where people could write down the groups of people not being included in the Sidewalk Toronto conversation.
Many of the answers read “the homeless” or “Indigenous peoples” or something along those lines, which are fair points! So far, there hasn’t been any mention on how to combat homelessness and address support for the Indigenous population.
But, this is exactly why Sidewalk Toronto is engaging the public in so many different ways. The high-tech project planned for the east waterfront is ambitious and before taking any steps forward with a plan of attack, it’s essential that the public have their say.
In addition to the roundtables, there was a presentation where Sidewalk Labs’ chief policy officer, Rohit (Rit) Aggarwala, addressed many areas of priority, including mobility, sustainability, privacy, and housing affordability.
With regards to housing affordability, there are many possibilities up in the air, but it’s hard to say which ones will land. Aggarwala said that they are exploring the use of different materials, for example, wood frames instead of concrete. Currently six storeys is as high as you can build wood frames in Toronto, but there are areas of the world allowing for greater heights.
Aggarwala also mentioned the importance of building an urban environment for everyone; couples, single people, young, old, empty nesters, those with accessibility needs, etc. Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world and an ideal neighbourhood accommodates everyone. So, new housing must consider the needs of everyone.
The whole point of Sidewalk Toronto is to build a tech-forward neighbourhood that changes the way we think about city life and interact in the public realm. Aggarwala explained that building a smart city, especially within a city, on a city scale is basically impossible at this point. This makes Sidewalk Toronto a sandbox to test new urban tech, which can eventually scale to work for the whole city and other cities.
With this in mind, we are interested to see what kind of innovative housing solutions are selected and tested within the community. We could see some prefab mid- and high-rises proposed, perhaps some taller wood buildings.
One of the renderings for Sidewalk Toronto does show an under construction building seemingly comprised of shipping containers. Based on some feedback from the crowd, the shipping container idea isn’t a favourite. It may seem clever and a reasonable way to reuse these otherwise useless items, but some doubted the actual comfort of shipping container living.
Time will tell! Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto plan to spend all of 2018 engaging the public and devising their plan.