Jane Jacobs Day in Chicago

Jane Jacobs Day in Chicago

I've been reading the late urban planner Jane Jacobs' book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities for years.  For some reason, I never finished it.  I picked it up again recently because for the first time Chicago is having two Jane Jacobs Days--this Saturday and Sunday--sponsored by the Friends of Downtown (full disclosure:  I'm on the board) and I want to familiarize myself with her ideas once again.

Jane Jacobs Days celebrate her ideas, not to mention her birthday, around the country--with tours and other talks and events.  Chicago will have "walks" in her honor--from Downtown to Humboldt Park, the South Loop and Hyde Park.  For more information and to sign up, click here.

Jacobs' ideas have always appealed to me--as they have to one degree or another to American urban planners for decades.  Like the idea of high density city neighborhoods, totally heterogenous in terms of socioeconomic diversity and purpose--retail, services, government buildings, buildings filled with art and culture, etc.  Jacobs maintained that a neighborhood should harbor plenty of places for people to come together for one reason or another in close proximity.  Everything all mixed together on the same streets.

I also was intrigued by her idea of private and public space on a city street, that the two must be extremely well-defined.  As far as Jacobs was concerned the suburbs fell short in many ways--both in terms of diversity and in terms of public/private dichotomy.  She lived in a storefront with her family in Greenwich Village that was converted into a single family house; that is, until she moved to Canada to keep her sons away from the draft during the Viet Nam war.

In any case, it will be interesting to see what kind of tour South Loop maven Dennis McClendon conducts as one of the Jane Jacobs Days walks.  Will my own neighborhood comport substantially with Jacobs' ideas?  Or will it fall short?  I'll find out tomorrow.


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