Jay Pitter, MES leads inclusive city-building processes that address growing divides in urban centres. She is an author, placemaker, and public engagement professional who has, throughout her career, spearheaded noteworthy projects with organizations such as: the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Community Housing, The Health and Safety Task Force, the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and DIALOG, a national architecture firm.
Jay has lectured within post-secondary institutions and has also co-led several participatory research processes. Most recently, she collaborated with Westbank to increase community engagement in the Honest Ed’s redevelopment process, consulted on Edmonton’s new heritage plan, co-edited Subdivided, a Coach House anthology exploring inclusive city-building. Jay was one of two authors selected to be interviewed by Premier Kathleen Wynne at the Word on the Street Festival and the anthology has been shortlisted for the esteemed Speaker’s Book award. Jay regularly sparks important city-building conversations across media platforms such as: The Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, The Agenda with Steve Paikin, and Canadian Architect. She currently teaches an urban planning course at Ryerson University and is working on her second book Where We Live, which will be published by McClelland & Stewart at Penguin Random House Canada.
How do we build cities where we aren’t just living within the same urban space, but living together? Subdivided aims to provoke the tough but pressing conversations required to build a truly connected city and is sparking important city-building conversations.
Read an excerpt of Subdivided here.
About This Episode
Housing prices in Toronto have continued to skyrocket, with the average the price jumping to nearly $678,00 in August. The Agenda examines the high-price of housing and asks: has living in a big city become a luxury?
Length: 32:23 Air Date: Sep 26,2016
Watch the full episode here.
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The Honest Ed’s Project is an inclusive cultural archiving initiative, which engaged community stakeholders historically excluded from city-building processes including newcomers, elders, youth, individuals living outside of the core and Indigenous communities. When the project launched in 2015, over 100 stories and personal artifacts were collected in one day. The most recent iteration was carried out in partnership with Westbank and Markham House: City Building Lab.
While in Edmonton, Jay worked with staff from the City of Edmonton, City Region Studies Centre (University of Alberta), and the Edmonton Heritage Council. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable our consultation was with her. Jay shared many insightful placemaking principles and practices from her own work that have and will continue to improve engagement processes here. For example, she addressed: how to engage with hard-to-reach stakeholder groups, how to create space for uncomfortable or painful experiences without creating divisions between stakeholder groups, and how to demonstrate accountability to stakeholder groups. In addition to sharing insights, Jay is an active listener and is respectful of multiple perspectives. Her ability to identify urban issues while providing strategies and instilling hope in everyone is admirable.
I assigned Jay Pitter’s brilliant book Subdivided to my second year class of urban and environmental studies students at York. Jay generously agreed to come and speak to the class of one hundred last fall. She lit up the room with her presentation and inspired the students with her engaging and challenging conversation on city building in an age of hyper-diversity. A real treat! I hope she will come to my class again!<
Jay’s authentic approach to leadership and inclusive city-building has inspired many people to find their voice, and plug their unique perspectives into conversations that need them. She is a brilliant public engagement professional, a dynamic speaker, and has deep knowledge of urban issues on many levels, including that of lived experience. Jay leads an annual session with our CivicAction DiverseCity Fellows around personal leadership context and identity. It is routinely considered one of the most transformative experiences participants receive over their year with us. She’s a huge asset to this city – a lot of fun, and one of the frontier leaders rounding out the edges of what’s traditionally been considered “city-building.
How can cities realize their ambitions for inclusiveness and social justice? What are the difficult conversations we need to have and the hurdles we have to overcome to get there? Through an energetic presentation combining expertise in urban planning, design and engagement with personal reflection and experience, Jay inspired an audience of urban professionals to be bold and optimistic in their ability co-create cities for everyone. We learned a lot.
Jay Pitter has developed a unique approach to engaging communities, often using streets themselves as the locus of the conversation, and incorporating new media and digital storytelling. In this way, she has been able to build thoughtful dialogues with groups often overlooked or excluded from traditional stakeholder engagement, weaving together a range of stories and analyses to build new ideas around familiar places.