Centre for Cities announces 2021-23 Visiting Fellow in Equitable City-Building

Jay Pitter

The Windsor Law Centre for Cities has announced a new visiting fellow: leading placemaker, urban planning lecturer, and author, Jay Pitter. Pitter’s 19-month engagement with the centre commenced on Monday, Nov. 1, and will continue to June 2023.

Pitter's multi-disciplinary urban design practice mitigates growing divides in cities across North America. She spearheads institutional city-building projects specializing in public space design and policy, forgotten densities, mobility equity, gender-responsive design, inclusive public engagement, and healing fraught sites, and has shaped projects in more than 25 cities.

In addition to her placemaking practice, Pitter has made significant contributions to academia including developing an equitable planning certificate course with the University of Detroit’s Mercy School of Architecture, a women in city-building course with the University of Toronto, and an Engaging Black People and Power course spurred by the murder of George Floyd. Her forthcoming books, Black Public Joy and Where We Live, will be published by McClelland & Stewart, Penguin Random House Canada.

The primary focus of the fellowship will be Pitter’s new Bold Policy Project, for which the Centre for Cities will serve as academic host. The project goes beyond conventional charity and social service interventions to identify and reform urban policies restricting and extinguishing Black lives. This work will entail a first-of-its-kind bi-national public survey to assess Black peoples’ experiences with public spaces across North American cities, an audit of urban policies in partnership with municipalities, an urban policy reformation literature review, and an action-based toolkit to transform conversation to action.

Windsor Law students will have the opportunity to engage in research supporting the Bold Policy Project through the Faculty of Law’s award-winning experiential learning program.

“Knowledge production processes predicated on participatory, community-based research have the power to respectfully bear witness to those navigating structural discrimination and profound social transgression,” says Pitter. “This collaborative approach births new knowledge while disrupting the colonial canon, which is not separate from the multiple forms of polarization and blood-shed we've witnessed across communities and generations.”

Pitter says that locating the project in Windsor is meaningful given that the city is a major epicentre of Black history and liberation. She says she looks forward to working with the Centre for Cities and other collaborators to undertake the urgent work of codifying, validating, and acting to redress anti-Blackness in public spaces.

During her tenure, she will also lend expertise to several of the centre’s ongoing research and community engagement projects, as well as giving occasional guest lectures within the broader Faculty of Law. The fellowship will lay the foundation for new research collaborations between Pitter and affiliated faculty members of the centre and other UWindsor researchers.

“Jay Pitter’s work is ground-breaking and is impacting communities and institutions across North America,” says law professor Anneke Smit, director of the Centre for Cities. “We are delighted to continue working with her on projects focusing on best practices in urban design and development policies for all municipalities. As a law school-based interdisciplinary urban policy centre, we are well-placed to support the Bold Policy Project, and thrilled that our students will learn through contributing to this important work.”

Dean of law Reem Bahdi says the school looks forward to hosting Pitter.

“Jay Pitter’s dedication to integrating education and equitable city-building merges well with Windsor Law’s justice-seeking, community-engaged, and people-centred philosophy,” she says.

As part of her visiting fellowship, Pitter will collaborate with the Office of the Vice-President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Clinton Beckford, on a pilot audit project engaging Black faculty, staff, and students to explore their sense of place and belonging across UWindsor campus spaces.

“The Office of the Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is pleased to welcome Jay Pitter to the University of Windsor,” Dr. Beckford says. “We are looking forward to working with her as we deliver on our commitment to create safe spaces on our campus for Black faculty, staff, and students at the University.”

Pitter will also hold occasional office hours for students and will deliver two campus-wide guest lectures during her visit.

Since its launch in 2019, the Windsor Law Centre for Cities has engaged in collaborative research, teaching, and public engagement on the legal and policy tools related to municipalities and local institutions. For more information, visit the Windsor Law Centre for Cities website.