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Over the last 18 years, Waterfront Toronto has transformed the waterfront with its forward-thinking urban design, and Quayside is one of our most exciting projects yet.

We’ve been working to ensure a thorough and careful approach in planning for Quayside. The same is true for evaluating the anticipated proposal to ensure that it is in line with our mandate, the policy objectives of our government stakeholders, and the public interest. This section shares key milestones for our process—from research and market soundings, to the launch of the Request for Proposals, through to current consultations, our evaluation process, and board approvals.


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.

During the year leading up to the creation of the RFP, we engaged in market research that was aided by our consultants, including KPMG (a global professional services firm) and Arup Canada. This research included market sounding interviews. Pre-solicitation market research and consultations (often called “market soundings”) are commonly carried out by organizations like Waterfront Toronto contemplating complex, high value or innovative procurement projects. Market soundings build better understanding of available market offerings, the state of evolving technology, alternative policy or other solutions deployed in other jurisdictions, and creative ways of addressing project objectives. Waterfront Toronto believes that the market sounding would lead to a better RFP process, better solicitation documents, better evaluation criteria and more effective and efficient project outcomes.

The market soundings involved meetings with over 50 companies and organizations where the vision and objectives of the Quayside project were shared. In addition, as part of the broad outreach leading up to drafting the RFP, we also hosted the “Going to Scale Summit” on November 11, 2016 to deepen our understanding of the market and further validate the findings and observations from the market soundings. You can read more in this blog.

Waterfront Toronto released our RFP to the global marketplace in March 2017. Following the release, a strict procurement black-out period came into effect for the duration of the procurement process to ensure that the process was fair, open and transparent. The RFP was disseminated and promoted through a variety of methods, including MERX (Canada’s electronic tendering service). You can read more in this blog.

The Quayside Innovation and Funding Partner was selected through a Request for Proposal (RFP) using a Best and Final Offer (BAFO) process. This multistage process provided for discussions and negotiations through Commercially Confidential Meetings.

The Pre-Qualification phase marked the first portion of our two-stage RPF.

The evaluation process involved a seven (7) member Evaluation Committee comprised of Waterfront Toronto staff from a variety of disciplines, and 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.

During this phase, we reviewed all proposals to see which ones complied with all mandatory submission requirements and clarified necessary details with considered applicants. Six submissions were received, one of which was not compliant with the requirements and was disqualified from further proceedings.

The accepted submissions then went through 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. The three shortlisted proponents were invited to continue to the next stage in the process.

Waterfront Toronto invited the shortlisted proponents to proceed to the next stage in the process.

For this stage of our process, we held a series of four Commercially Confidential Meetings with each of the shortlisted proponents in order to ensure that the objectives of the project were clear and enable the shortlisted proponents to clarify and submit their Best and Final Offer (BAFO) submissions. 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, which included a due diligence review by the Steering Committee.

The full length of the RFP process that saw Sidewalk Labs selected to produce a proposal for Quayside lasted 159 days, making it the second longest procurement in Waterfront Toronto’s history.

Our seven (7) member Steering Committeecomprised of representatives from Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors and executive team, as well as external subject matter experts with extensive experience in sustainability, urban innovation, entrepreneurship and urban planningreviewed the evaluation and recommendation of the Evaluation Committee and approved the recommended preferred proponent.

Waterfront Toronto notified Sidewalk Labs of its selection as our preferred Proponent for the Quayside development project.

The Investment and Real Estate Committee (IREC) of the Board oversaw negotiations of an initial agreement between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs that would allow the project to proceed in principal. This was called the Framework Agreement, much like a memorandum of understanding, simply authorizing the parties to continue negotiating a more detailed Plan Development Agreement that would codify and define the roles and responsibilities of each party. There were eight meetings of either the Board of Directors or IREC between the time a winning proponent was chosen and the vote to approve the Framework Agreement.

The Framework Agreement was passed by the Board on October 16th, with the understanding it was a preliminary and temporary document built on high level objectives. It was also understood that this would lead to further discussions on the final Plan Development Agreement, which was subsequently adopted by the Board of Directors.

Sidewalk Labs was announced as the successful Innovation and Funding Partner at Corus Quay in the East Bayfront by Helen Burstyn, former Chair of Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors; Will Fleissig, former CEO of Waterfront Toronto; Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne; Toronto Mayor John Tory; and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Inc. The Sidewalk Toronto project name was also introduced at this time.

Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs hosted a town hall event to introduce the objectives of the project and to start the planning process by listening to and taking into consideration the ideas, hopes, and concerns expressed by the community.

Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs published the public engagement plan for Quayside, also referred to as the Sidewalk Toronto project. The engagement plan set out the engagement activities to unfold over the months ahead, which were designed to provide a variety of opportunities for the community to become informed and provide their feedback as the proposal evolved.

Our Digital Strategy Advisory Panel (DSAP) was formed to help guide Waterfront Toronto on how best to incorporate data privacy, digital systems, and the safe and ethical use of new technologies in the next phase of waterfront revitalization, starting with the Quayside project. Read more here

The Plan Development Agreement (PDA) entirely supersedes the Framework Agreement and defines and governs the relationship between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs during the planning and consultation process for the Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP).The PDA includes a budget and joint oversight measures for spending the up to USD$50M committed by Sidewalk Labs; outlines shared objectives and principles; and makes clear that there is no transfer of ownership or sale of land as a result of the agreement. The PDA specifies that Waterfront Toronto is the revitalization lead and that Sidewalk Labs will provide urban innovation and digital technology expertise. It also makes clear that the MIDP will focus on a comprehensive plan for Quayside while acknowledging that proposals may be brought forward at a scale beyond Quayside. For this purpose, the context area for scale explorations during the planning process is defined by the Designated Waterfront Area, as set out in the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation Act.

Infographic of PDA meetings
Infographic PDA meetings


After several months of convening public discussions on topics related to planning Quayside, the next step for Waterfront Toronto was to convene discussions and build public literacy on topics such as public digital infrastructure, data collection and ownership, cyber ethics, privacy, and intellectual property. Waterfront Toronto hosted the first in a series of Civic Labs on November 23, 2018.

On June 17, 2019, Waterfront Toronto received Sidewalk Labs’ proposal for Quayside and released it publicly on June 24, 2019. The proposal, titled Draft Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP), details Sidewalk Labs’ recommendations for the 4.9-hectare (12-acre) parcel of land.

Waterfront Toronto’s review and evaluation process for this proposal began following receipt. Public feedback is a critical part of this evaluation process. Accordingly, Waterfront Toronto released their Note to Reader on June 28, 2019 to support the public in their navigation and understanding of this 1500+ proposal. The Note to Reader offers Waterfront Toronto’s unique lens on this project as public steward of Toronto’s waterfront.

Two weeks following the release of Sidewalk Labs’ proposal, Waterfront Toronto initiated their first of two rounds of public consultations across the Toronto to seek feedback on the MIDP. The first round of consultation was focused on orienting the public to the 1,500+ page submission from Sidewalk Labs, from the perspective of Waterfront Toronto as public steward working with all three levels of government to revitalize the waterfront.

Round one consultations consisted of 4 identical major public consultations and 7 information sessions at Toronto Public Library locations across the city. In addition, residents have the opportunity submit feedback through online consultations until Fall 2019 and written submissions through quayside@waterfrontoronto.ca.

On July 31, 2019, Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs agreed to extend the Plan Development Agreement (PDA) for the Quayside project. An Amending Agreement was entered into to extend the PDA by six months in order to allow for additional time to review and consult on Sidewalk Labs’ Draft Master Innovation Development Plan (MIDP). 

The Plan Development Agreement is the legal agreement between the Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs that establishes the scope, budget, principles and governing structures for the creation of the Master Innovation and Development Plan.  It is the sole governing agreement between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto. 

This extension on the PDA until March 31, 2020 allows Waterfront Toronto more time to receive public feedback on the MIDP and to undertake an expert evaluation of it prior to making a recommendation to its Board of Directors. 

The Amending Agreement also includes a new termination provision should certain threshold issues outlined by Waterfront Toronto’s Board Chair not be resolved. If the parties cannot reach an understanding on these issues the PDA will terminate as of October 31, 2019. 

Finally, should the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors ultimately approve the MIDP, the PDA is amended to extend the deadline for entering into Principal Implementation Agreements from December 31, 2019 to December 31, 2020. 

The PDA and the Amending Agreement are found HERE. 

The Digital Strategy Advisory Panel (DSAP) presented Waterfront Toronto with their Preliminary Commentary and Questions on Sidewalk Labs’ Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) on August 19, 2019. Read the full document HERE.

Read more about DSAP and the creation of this commentary through the following blog post by DSAP Chair, Michael Geist.

Beginning in June 2019, over the course of five weeks, more than 1,000 citizens participated in round one consultation activities, which included four public meetings, seven drop-in information sessions at Toronto Public Library branches, an online consultation and written submissions.

You can read the Consultation Feedback Report and an appendices with detailed feedback HERE.


What's Next?

Find out about upcoming milestones in the Quayside project here.

Learn more
Sugar beach photo