Even as a teenager, Mariah Samji had city planning on her mind. On family drives from Millbourne to Downtown, she noticed “Edmonton was kind of monochromatic, sidewalks weren’t very big and in disrepair, and it was easiest to get places by car.” She would go into buildings and observe who was using spaces, while thinking about who wasn’t being served by the way buildings and neighbourhoods were designed.
While completing a degree in Elementary Education, Samji noticed stark discrepancies in how her students experienced life in Edmonton — their stories and needs encouraged her to shift career goals and complete an after-degree in Human Geography and Urban Planning.
“I decided I wanted to help kids navigate our cities and become the best versions of themselves,” Samji says. “I figured I could still make a difference by building an inclusive city that met the needs of underserved populations, especially those with physical disabilities.”
As an advocate for people-centered communities, one of Samji’s proudest accomplishments is work that led to the elimination of single detached-only zoning in Edmonton, which she says is often used as a means of financial segregation. “Once we start allowing building diversity like secondary suites, garden suites, small-scale apartment buildings and walkups, it allows for people to grow in place and make living transitions within their neighbourhood without losing their community connections.”
She makes Edmonton a more vibrant, people-centred place
This article appears in the November 2022 issue of Edify