Former Chief Planner, City of Toronto | Renowned Urbanist
Jennifer Keesmaat is passionate about creating places where people flourish. Named one of the “most powerful people in Canada” by Maclean’s, one of the “most influential” by Toronto Life, and one of the top Women of Influence in Canada, she spent five years as Toronto’s chief city planner, where she was celebrated for her forward thinking and collaborative approach to city building.
A Distinguished Visitor in Residence Emeritus at the University of Toronto, Jennifer continues to share her vision for cities of the future, and her belief in the importance of public sector leadership through a variety of publications including The Guardian, Maclean's, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and on her podcast, "Invisible City," where she covers a broad range of future city and technological topics.
Over the past 15 years, as a founding partner of the Office for Urbanism and subsequently Dialog, Jennifer has worked in municipalities across Canada and around the world on urban design guidelines, official plan reviews, culture strategies and university campus master plans. She has been recognized for her expertise in transit planning, heritage preservation, strategy development, communications, sustainable economic development, and the creation of walkable, complete communities.
In 2018, she ran for mayor in the city of Toronto on a progressive, visionary platform that included addressing the housing crisis by building at-scale on city-owned land, and implementing a rent-to-own program; neighbourhood-based crime prevention through the development of Community Wellbeing Plans; redesigning city streets to prioritize vulnerable users; the development of five Cultural Hubs to instigate renewal outside of the core; and the tearing down of the Gardiner Expressway to build a new walkable, transit-oriented waterfront neighbourhood community.
Today, she heads up The Keesmaat Group. With her team of city-building experts, she provides inspiration through public speaking, and delivers impact through her consulting services pertaining to creating complete, walkable communities. She is also on the Advisory Board of the Urban Land Institute in Toronto and appointed to the International Panel of Experts for the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Jennifer has a combined honours degree in philosophy and English from the University of Western Ontario, and a master's in environmental studies, politics and planning from York University. As a registered professional planner, her work has been repeatedly recognized by professional associations, including the 2016 President’s Award of Excellence from the Canadian Institute of Planners, the 2016 Bryden Alumni Award from York University, and the 2017 City Builders Award from EDIT/the Design Exchange. Jennifer’s TED talks include “Walk to School,” “Own Your City,” and “Taxes, Democracy, and Our Shared Interest.”