Jennifer Keesmaat has announced her departure from the top job in Toronto's Planning Department effective September 29, 2017. Chief Planner and Executive Director of the City Planning division since joining the City in September 2012, Keesmaat's prepared statement reads “It’s been an honour to work with Mayor Tory, Council, City staff and my remarkable team in the City Planning division over the last five years. I promised myself that after five years in public service I would review my future options. I look forward to new challenges in the important business of city building now enriched by invaluable lessons, new friends and colleagues acquired while serving the people of our great city, Toronto."
Keesmaat's term has been a busy one, championing several high-profile initiatives during a time of very rapid growth. In a City department starved of funds to stay ahead of development pressure, Keesmaat has pushed for modernizing local planning with, among other things—
- TOCore, the first comprehensive plan for downtown in 40 years
- Feeling Congested, the City's first Council-approved Transit Network Plan
- Tall Buildings Guidelines
- Mid-Rise Buildings Guidelines
- Complete Streets Guidelines
- OMB reform
- a Toronto Ravine Strategy
- connecting with the public better through Planners in Public Spaces pop-ups
- creation of a Planning Review Panel
Under Keesmaat, the department has also partnered with other City divisions and agencies on a number of significant transportation initiatives including—
- Crosstown LRT
- Scarborough Subway Extension
- Relief Line
- King Street Pilot Project
- Waterfront LRT
Mayor John Tory released the following statement "I want to personally thank Jennifer for her tremendous passion, leadership and innovation in driving forward a number of major projects for the City as we continue to move Toronto toward becoming a more livable, affordable and functional city. Jennifer has used her platform and voice as Chief Planner to help guide Council's efforts to build a better city for all Torontonians and I wish her all the best in the next phase of her career."
Representing the City's civilian staff, Deputy City Manager John Livey thanked Keesmaat for her leadership and "her contributions to my senior management team. Jennifer is a strong and forthright proponent of complete communities, cross-sector collaboration and public consultation on every project she undertakes, which has helped achieve broad support for many of the City's major infrastructure projects."
Prior to joining the City, Keesmaat was a principal at design firm Dialog and had a successful career private planning, working on projects across Canada, in the United States, Ireland, and Greece. Keesmaat's job at Toronto Planning was her first public service position.
Reactions are now beginning to show up on Twitter , with speculation that we have not seen Keesmaat in her last high-profile setting.
What are your thought's on Keesmaat's time at the top of Toronto's Planning division? You can leave a comment in the space provided on this page, or joining on the conversation in our dedicated Forum thread.