Jane Jacobs: Four ways to improve cities and towns

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Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs: Four ways to improve cities and towns

The most influential writer on urban planning in modern times, the late Jane Jacobs received the Vincent Scully Prize from the Green Building Council in 2000. Jacobs made a seminal speech offering suggestions for communities on the four topics: Empowering immigrant neighborhoods to develop freely, investing in “community hearths,” dealing with gentrification, and, finally, encouraging small business activity. Although the speech was made 15 years ago, her excerpted comments resonate today:

We take it for granted that some things are improved or enhanced with the passage of time, and the things that the passing of times brings. Trees grow larger; hedges grow thicker, fine old buildings are put to uses that were never intended or anticipated, and increasingly appreciated as time passes. Now I am thinking of American city and suburban neighborhoods. On the whole, they have very chancy records of dealing well with time and change.

My first suggestion concerns immigrants. Right now, striving immigrants are settling in woebegone city suburbs to which time has been unkind. These newcomers are enlivening the dull and dreary streets with tiny grocery and clothing stores, second-hand shops, little importing and craft enterprises, skimpy offices, and modest but exotic restaurants. […]

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