Jennifer Keesmaat

Jennifer Keesmaat

CEO, The Keesmaat Group | Partner, Markee Developments

Jennifer Keesmaat is passionate about creating places where people flourish. A renowned urban planner, she was 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. Keesmaat spent five years as Toronto’s Chief City Planner, where she was celebrated for her forward thinking and collaborative approach to city-building.

Today, Keesmaat is a founding partner of Markee Developments, where she, along with veteran developer Jason Marks, are developing new communities across the GTA as sustainable, liveable places that prioritize access to high-quality, affordable rental housing. She is also the CEO of The Keesmaat Group, where she provides inspiration through public speaking, and delivers impact through her consulting services pertaining to creating complete, walkable communities.

A Distinguished Visitor in Residence Emeritus at the University of Toronto, Keesmaat frequently shares her vision for cities of the future through a variety of publications including The Guardian, Foreign Affairs, Macleans, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and on her podcast, “Invisible City”. She was also the Chief Architect of the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities, which provides a blueprint for adapting cities post-pandemic.

Keesmaat’s 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; the 2017 City Builders Award from EDIT/the Design Exchange; and, most recently, the 2019 Edmund N. Bacon Award from the Center for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia. She also sits on the Advisory Board of the Urban Land Institute, Toronto; has been appointed to the International Panel of Experts of the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority; is a board member for May Mobility; and is on the President’s Planning and Growth Advisory Board for Ohio State University.

Keesmaat has a Combined Honours degree in Philosophy and English from the University of Western Ontario, and a Masters in Environmental Studies, Politics, and Planning from York University.


Within Reach: Advancing Transformative Change

So many of the challenges we face seem insurmountable. A globe that is heating up around us. An upswing in authoritarianism, racism, division and conflict. A global refugee crisis. A world on the cusp of AI, grappling with privacy issues. Growing income inequality in our rapidly urbanizing cities.  And a generation of young people that fear access to stable housing might just be continually beyond their grasp.

In this fast changing, increasingly complex world, is there a way to advance transformative change? To grab hold of the things that matter most, and have an impact?

When we let our values guide us, we can prioritize our actions and our efforts, and change the world. We can transform our work places, communities, cities and our world.  We can build knowledge and understanding to inform strategic, transformative actions. And we can leverage our collective impact, to advance positive change.

It begins with identifying what is within reach.

Within Reach empowers people, organizations, and leaders to advance transformative change. We can green our planet, create inclusive work places and communities, and usher in prosperity for all.

This keynote will:

  • Inspire strategic thinking by focusing on your core values and prioritization as an organization, using case studies to identify how to move from vision to action
  • Help you to extend your influence and build momentum
  • Build knowledge and understanding to information strategic, transformative actions
  • Unlock meaningful change

Our Cities Will Define Our Future

While some may argue that the issues we face in the 21st century are insurmountable – global warming, peak oil, economic collapse – Jennifer Keesmaat believes that now is the best possible moment, locally, nationally, and internationally, to engage in city building and taking ownership of our shared future.

Jennifer issues a call to action which implores cities to best address the most pressing challenges of our day: global poverty, affordable housing, quality of life, the need for innovation, the economy, traffic congestion, and climate change.

Women In Leadership

It’s a man’s world. Or is it?  As a woman, navigating professional life and defining leadership in your sector is contingent on pushing past boundaries, inventing new ways of being, and drawing on the power of collaboration to nurture success for all in your workplace.

As the first woman – and youngest person – to hold the post of Chief Planner in the City of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat has a pretty interesting case study on this subject that she shares: her own story.

Event Host/Master of Ceremonies

Looking to give your event some flair that will make it light, inspiring, and worth the attention you have given to every detail? Let Jennifer Keesmaat, as the face and voice of your program, set the tone and create a lasting presence with her ability to weave together the context, commentary, people and personalities of the event into a warm and unique memory.