Chelsey Jersak was a young archaeology student, visiting ruins outside of Mexico City, when she realized she needed to change course.
“I was so interested in exploring the streets of this gigantic city, but, when I visited the ruins, I was just really bored.”
That fascination with how modern cities work has propelled her ever since. Jersak worked as a planner with the City of Edmonton and, in 2016, she founded Situate, a boutique firm that helps developers navigate the municipal approvals process to get infill projects off the ground.
“The communities we most like to be in are often these older areas that have had time to mature, grow old and reinvent themselves,” Jersak says about her passion for good infill.
She’s also a founding member of the Child Friendly Housing Coalition of Alberta, which in 2017 successfully lobbied the Alberta government to amend legislation that permitted apartment buildings to prohibit those under 18 from becoming residents.
Keeping children out of huge swaths of housing stock doesn’t make good planning sense, says Jersak.
“If you think about planning a city for people who are eight or 80, then you’re also building a great city for all of us in between.”
But building better communities isn’t all business for Jersak. During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., she trained in zouk, a Brazilian partner dance that’s “a bit like salsa, only slower,” and has since opened Ludic Zouk, a studio dedicated to the dance and forging community connections. Because, out of all her travels, building a better Edmonton is exactly what Jersak wants to do.