Happy Birthday Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs has been a profound influence on architects, planners and urban designers since her first book, the Death and Life of American Cities. She is also an icon in the architectural preservation movement, which has led some to complain that she is the patron saint of NIMBYs. Even in her birthday tribute today, Libby Nelson of Vox writes:
Her love for old buildings can turn into a fetishization of historic preservation that stops new construction to help keep down housing prices. A belief that the community should get a say in development can turn into NIMBYism that protects existing residents' rights by barring newcomers.
Another trope about her work is that the Greenwich Village that she helped save and places like it are now ossified and expensive, and that as Ed Glaeser put it, "An absolute victory for Jacobs means a city frozen in concrete with prices that are too high and buildings that are too low."
But Richard Florida talked to Jane about this, about the gentrification of New York's SoHo district, where the once diverse local economy "with manufacturers, artists, craftspeople, shop-owners, and whatnot - was replaced by a homogeneous, mall-like commercial corridor." Florida writes in the Atlantic in 2010:
She went on to describe how cities have an amazing capacity to reorganize and reenergize themselves. The dulling down of one neighborhood, as the diversity of social and economic life was sucked out of it, would lead invariably to the rise of new, energized neighborhoods elsewhere in the city. And then in what remains my single favorite comment of hers - and the best single comment I have ever heard on the issue - she simply said: "Well, Richard, you must understand: when a place gets boring, even the rich people leave."
See all our Jane Jacobs related articles in related links below; here is a great outline of Jane's ideas from Jane's Walk. If you cannot read it get the bigger version here.