Tech Giant's Plan Gets Leaked, City Reels

Google wants to develop, tax 350 acres of Toronto
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2019 11:45 AM CST
Toronto Shocked by Google's 'Secret' Plan
Light from the sunset hits the skyline in Toronto, Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017.   (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)

Toronto got an eye-popper Friday when it learned that Google—which is aiming to transform 12 acres of Waterfront land with tech-friendly development—actually wants to develop 350 acres and draw profit from sources including higher property taxes and a share of developer fees, the Toronto Star reports. Politicians at all three levels of government expressed shock at the plan to effectively develop and tax a huge swath of prime, mostly public city property. "There is no way on God's green earth that Premier Doug Ford would ever sign off on handing away nearly 500 acres of prime waterfront property to a foreign multinational company," a senior official tells the Star. This despite Google sister company Sidewalk Labs saying it has already discussed plans with officials.

"We're prepared to take the risk up front of developing a model to help make that happen, and we’re prepared to essentially get paid back when we’ve demonstrated that it can be successful," says Sidewalk CEO Dan Doctoroff. "We don't actually benefit until there's successful development." But the project, already plagued by concerns that Google might cull and monetize data of future residents, now appears shakier. "I was terribly shocked because this was not within the scope of the project," City Councillor Paula Fletcher tells Reuters. "I think it's a big credibility problem for everybody." The news coincided with a Friday Washington Post report that Google has been using anonymous holding companies to snap up land across America and acquire tax breaks. (More Google stories.)

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