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Jennifer Keesmaat

Renowned Urbanist | Expert on Building Sustainable Cities

WEB Jennifer Keesmaat Headshot May 2023
Sprawl is the Norm, but it Can't Be the Future
Paying Your Taxes Can Save Democracy
WEB Jennifer Keesmaat Headshot May 2023
Sprawl is the Norm, but it Can't Be the Future
Paying Your Taxes Can Save Democracy

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 on 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 master’s in environmental studies, politics, and planning from York University.

Speaking topics

Presentations listed below include in-person and virtual keynotes, as well as workshops, fireside chats, and other presentation formats.

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Client reviews

  • I have had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer speak to my students, groups of professionals, and the public. In all settings she has proven to be a very knowledgeable and stimulating speaker who promotes excellence in city planning. Jennifer is a visionary and engaging speaker who inspires and motivates both students and professionals to meet the challenges of city building.

  • Jennifer Keesmaat led the successful development of the first ever municipal culture plan for the City of Saskatoon. Adopted by City Council in September 2011, the Saskatoon Culture Plan has been referred to by community as “creative, responsive and inspiring”. From my perspective, the success of the Saskatoon Culture Plan is due in large part to Jennifer’s skill in engaging residents and stakeholders matched with an uncanny ability to hear what community is really saying. Jennifer not only drew the best out of us as a community but also helped us as civic workers become better urban thinkers.

  • I have worked with Jennifer for several years, and on several different conferences, including urban planning, economic development and citizen engagement. She has proven to be an exceptionally knowledgeable speaker and chair, consistently delivering dynamic and relevant presentations that have helped to shape the how cities can change for the better. She is highly capable, dependable, approachable, and an asset to any event.

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