Cities Are A Constant Negotiation Of Distance And Difference

Jay Pitter, MES, is an award-nominated author and placemaker whose practice mitigates growing divides in urban centres. She spearheads institutional city-building projects, rooted in neighbourhood knowledge, focused on: democratizing urbanism, transit equity, safe streets, healing fraught sites, and narrative-based public engagement. She also shapes urgent city-building conversations through media platforms such as the Agenda and Canadian Architect—as a keynote speaker for organizations like University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—and as a knowledge producer in urban planning faculties across North America. Recently, Jay consulted on Edmonton’s new heritage plan; hosted a professional development luncheon for women city-builders in Detroit; initiated  a safe and connected streets engagement following the mass shooting on the Danforth, and led (RE)IMAGINING CHEAPSIDE, a Confederate monument placemaking process in Lexington.


Subdivided: City-building In An Age Of Hyper-diversity

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.

Purchase your copy at Coach House Books, Indigo and the Spacing Store.


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.

Share This Episode


  • Ryerson University | Instructor, School of Urban & Regional Planning (2017)
  • Walrus Talks | Saskatoon (March 2017)
  • University of Toronto and Neighbourhood Change | Hyper-Diversity: Opportunity or Challenge (May 2016)
  • Word on The Street Festival | Interview with Premier Kathleen Wynne (September 2016)
  • Wordfest, Uncivil Politics: I’m Right and You’re an Idiot | Panelist (October 2016)
  • YouthRex Research and Evaluation Exchange: The Politics of Space | Session Facilitator (October 2016)
  • Ontario Professional Planners Institute: What Would Jane Jacobs Say? The Absence of Equity Considerations in Contemporary Planning Policies | Panelist (October 2016)
  • York University Urban and Regional Environments | Guest Lecturer (November 2016)
  • University of TorontoThe Rotman School of Management: Prosperity and Competitiveness | Guest Lecturer (November 2016)
  • University of AlbertaCity-Region Studies Centre (CRSC) | Guest Lecturer (November 2016)
  • NXT City Symposium 2016 | Speaker (November 2016)
  • University of Guelph | Part-time Professor (2015)
  • University of TorontoOISE | Lecturer and Instructor (2006 + 2013)
  • York University | Research Co-lead – The Alternative Campus Tour (2010 – 2013)
  • Seneca College – Green Citizen Conference | Guest Lecturer (2013)
  • Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Narrative | Guest Lecturer and Participatory Research Lead (October 2010)
  • Ontario Arts Council in partnership with York University | Guest Lecturer and Program Design (2003 – 2006)


  • 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.

    Marco MelfiPlanner, CITYlab
  • 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!<

    Roger KeilYork Research Chair in Global Sub/Urban Studies
  • 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.

    Sevaun PalvetzianCEO, CivicAction
  • 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.

    Dr. Kevin E. JonesCity-Region Studies Centre, University of Alberta
  • 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.

    Michael McClellandERA Architects


Contact Jay to collaborate on a placemaking project, deliver a talk, develop public space policy, or lead an inclusive city-building professional development process.

Contact Me

I'm not around right now. But you can send me an email and I'll get back to you, ASAP.