Jane Jacobs Walk set for May 4th

The second annual Jane Jacobs Walk will be held Saturday, May 4th, 3-4:30 p.m. in downtown Iowa City.  Jane Jacobs, who died at the age of 90 in 2006, was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. As a community organizer in 1960s New York City, she helped save her neighborhoods from destruction at the hands of Robert Moses (“the man who built New York”) and other outside interests. As an author she invited her readers to go out and see what makes some neighborhoods thrive but other ones struggle, and to learn through direct experience how cities actually work. She opposed those who insisted on applying standardized solutions to the unique challenges facing particular cities.

In 1961 Jacobs wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a book that is perhaps the most influential book ever written about urban planning and development in the U.S. In addition to Death and Life, she wrote four powerful books about the role of cities in economic development: The Economy of Cities (1970), Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1985), Systems of Survival (1992), and The Nature of Economies (2000), plus a worried finale titled Dark Age Ahead (2004).

This year’s walk will focus on the neighborhoods immediately north and east of downtown Iowa City which contain an array of lovely older buildings, many of which are included in the College Green and (newly-created) Jefferson Street Historic Preservation Districts. These neighborhoods are facing increasing development pressure, which has resulted in the construction (and planned construction) of several new multi-story mixed-use buildings. Whether these changes will contribute positively to the long-term prosperity and vitality of the city has recently been a topic of considerable public debate. Participants on the tour will be encouraged to see the neighborhoods and debate through Jane Jacobs’ eyes, and to draw upon her thinking to suggest alterations that would make the neighborhoods into even more attractive, diverse, and livable places.

Event Route: The walking tour will begin at the fountain on the Pedestrian Mall in downtown Iowa City. It will then go north three blocks, east three, south three, and west three back to the fountain on the mall.  This event is accessible and welcoming to wheelchairs, bicycles, seniors, and children.  No registration required.

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