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Ep 4. 7 Cities, 7 Voices

May 1, 2015

Seven global delegates in Toronto for the Youthful Cities summit share their visions for an ideal city. Episode also features Jane’s Walk and an exclusive with city councillors Michael Thompson and Anna Bailão on spaces to explore in their wards.


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The Cities Podcast Ep 4 – 7 Cities, 7 Voices

(Coffee shop sounds)


This is The Cities Podcast, I’m Brianna Goldberg.


I’m here at a coffee shop. It’s lunch hour. It’s noisy. But it’s often over food that the best conversations happen. Mouths and minds open up and discussions unfold — it doesn’t matter what culture you’re from, the table is where it happens.


This week in Toronto, urban enthusiasts from all over the world came to Toronto to talk about how to build ideal cities – it was part of a summit called Youthful Cities.


Fifty students and young professionals from around the world joined 50 youth from Toronto. They talked about lofty things like dynamism and innovation. They talked about specific things like housing affordability and challenges standing in the way of youth employment.


And all this while they explored the city together, going for walking tours of places like 401 Richmond, and diving into urban policy hackathons at places like the University of Toronto… over lunch.


I found the group talking over mealtime with cities experts like David Hulchanski – he’s the geographer behind the concept of ‘three Toronto’s. And he was chatting with delegates from places as far away as Japan and Australia.


Deb Cowen was there, too, she does some cool work on social activism, security and citizenship at U of T. Folks at my table who are members of Toronto’s Youth Cabinet dug into a really interesting discussion with her.


We’ll talk with her and Hulchanski in episodes a bit further down the line.


But, back at the Youthful Cities lunch, over dessert, my microphone and I caught up with some of the global delegates. I wanted to find out what they hope to see changing in cities like ours… and theirs.


Later in the episode, you’ll catch a quick podcast exclusive from two city councillors. They’ll share their favourite secret corners to explore in Toronto — perfect tips for visitors like the Youthful Cities group, or anyone walking through the city this coming weekend for Jane’s Walk. More on that in a few minutes.


But first, the reasons why cities-interested youth flew, in some cases, halfway around the world to talk with each other about building cities over streetcars and side streets… and lunch.


Here are a few of their answers…




Hi, my name is Rowin from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Really small country, 16 million people, but we’re all awesome. And I’m here as a global delegate at the youthful cities summit because I really, really, really care about all groups in society coming together. And in Amsterdam we have a big problem with integration, if you want to call it like that, or segregation, so how do we bring everyone together – united, connected—and how do we make sure that language learning is number one, that education is not just a way that forces you into a certain direction but that everybody has the same opportunities.


My name is Marino, I’m from Rome. I’m pretty much involved with environmental issues. I’ve been working and studying a lot about development and the green economy and recently I’m trying to, what I would like to develop is that sense of sustainable enterprises. So, enterprises that can at the same time address the needs of youth in terms of employment, the needs of environment in terms of protection, and so create that sense of love of community – increase the love of community through interaction and sustainability.


Hi, I’m Julian, from Germany. Originally from Hamburg, now living in London. I’m interested in cities because I’m traveling a lot, I’m investing a lot into real estate so that’s obviously, cities is one of the main issues there. And I’m also seeing the development of megacities in all the emerging regions so that’s quite interesting how big population growth can facilitate complete new infrastructure and new cities. And in London one of our biggest problems is now shortage of housing. The space is just to dense and people are beginning to move out of the city. So that’s one challenge to be addressed basically in many areas there.


Hi, this is Nilofer, people call me Nilo. I’m from Saudi Arabia but I’m here representing the city of Bangkok. I come from a clinical background, I’m a doctor myself – a newly minted doctor, don’t get scared. But I’ve crossed over to the side of global health policy so right now I’m working in Bangkok on international development, specifically with HIV/AIDS key affected populations. We’re talking about young transgender people, young sex workers, young women and girls living with HIV and those who live in prisons. So Bangkok has been my home for a year and I’m really passionate about cities. Having lived in eight cities so far, myself, I would say that cities are a microcosm of energy, diversity, multiculturalism that youth bring and there’s lot of intersectionality between disciplines, and cities bring all of that dynamic together, so I think it’s interesting to study that intersection.


How’s it going? I’m Aaron Kanzer, I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, United States. I used to work in the city transit agency for Boston so I care a lot about moving people, getting from Point A to Point B safely. I guess what I’m most interested in with Boston, and facing other cities around the world, how can cities become more proactive? As cities become more and more populated, how can we create solutions that we won’t get hit in the face with in order to limit the inefficiencies and try to help cities prosper and that’s something I’m really concerned about. I’m hoping to go back to my city and hopefully inspire some change. I can tell ya, I mean, Boston, the population growth is exploding, especially commuting. And they actually if you search ‘Boston, transportation,’ for this past winter, it was probably, it was almost, it was a state of emergency. The city shut down for days. Economic impact was huge. And everyone started pointing fingers and what came to the conclusion was, no one planned.


My name’s Alex Lim, from South Korea. I’m an entrepreneurs major at Babson College. I’ve been taking a few years off college to run an education company in Korea, called Awesome School. So we run different entrepreneurship/changemaker education programs in Seoul, working with public middle- and high school students to encourage them to find real problems within their communities and they’re supposed to come up with a solution by developing a product, service or company. I believe in the power of learning by doing, through combining entrepreneurship into education. And I think those two key urban attributes are what makes youth really break out their potentials and make it happen. Uber, and all these startups, they’re making a huge difference in the world and I think it’s really important to give an opportunity to these younger people that are in the public schools to give it a shot, to learn by doing. And I think those are the over-arching themes for every other urban attribute.


Hi, my name is Elfredah Tetteh, I’m from Accra, Ghana, but I live here in Ottawa because I’m in school at Carleton. I’m very interested in cities because I’m very involved in the arts scene back at home. Been working with artists for a while and I’m always trying to find ways to make art a bigger part of everyday life in Ghana, how to get them proper recognition. I feel that arts and culture is very important, it’s a very important part of a youthful city especially.





Those were just a few of the 50 global delegates in Toronto this week as part of the Youthful Cities summit.


They gathered here because last year Toronto ranked as the number one youthful city in the world.


And if you’re hoping to be more youthful in your city, this weekend is a great time to do it. It marks the annual Jane’s Walk weekend, a festival of citizen-led walking tours in honour of Jane Jacobs. She was an urbanist who lived in Toronto and championed city building led by communities.


So on May 1, 2, and 3 in cities from here to New York and beyond, individuals who love their communities are taking groups for free guided walks around their neighbourhood.


Some tours focus on green roofs, some are about the best hiding places, some are about poetry… track one down in a neighbourhood you’d like to explore by going to


This was on my mind when I visited the Global Cities Institute a few weeks ago. I was there for a session on para-diplomacy with professors and policy makers from Toronto and academics from the University of Sao Paolo. And afterwards, I found myself waiting for an elevator with city councillor Michael Thompson, from Scarborough, and city councillor Anna Bailao, from Davenport electoral district.


I asked them to quickly share their top suggestions for places to explore on a weekend like this one in their ward.


Here’s what they had to say…




So, Diana’s seafood, it’s in the ward, at the Warden and Lawrence area. In the past it was a donut shop that we used to have a lot of problems with and we had a fish shop that was next door. So, convinced the owner to buy the property and turn it into a major seafood restaurant. And it has amazing food and people from all around the city actually go there and actually eat. So that’s one of my favourite places. And then, Scarborough Bluffs, of course.




Mine, I have, behind the Nestle factory on Sterling road, there’s a heritage building, it used to be the automotive tower. And we’re actually redeveloping, revitalizing that whole neighbourhood and we’re bringing residential employment, a daycare, a park. There’s a brewery going in there, arts facilities going in there, and just going in there and knowing that we’re approving all that and that it’s coming, it’s really exciting. So the tower is gorgeous. You go inside and the tower has a wonderful view and we’ve actually protected it to be always the tallest building in that neighbourhood but also all the work that is being done around it, that’s the exciting part.




It’s spring, it’s Jane’s Walk weekend, and now you don’t have any excuse – it’s time to get out from the coffee shop and discover your city anew. Pretend you’re like the youthful cities global delegates, seeing your neighbourhood for the first time.


(Transition from coffee shop sounds to outdoor sounds)


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Thanks to Jay Ferguson for the music you heard in this episode.


The Cities Podcast is produced by me, Brianna Goldberg, with help from U of T News editor, Jennifer Lanthier.


Thanks for listening.