Jane Jacobs is a powerful symbol for present-day urbanist movements, but her work is about far more than just building walkable places.
Strong Towns explores the hard-hitting realities of Jane Jacobs’ activism: the need for financial solvency in American towns, her insistence on local decision-making instead of top-down proclamations and her “chaotic but smart” approach to improving cities."
If Jane Jacobs' writing is your bible, then Strong Towns should be your church.
Cities are complex ecosystems. For areas in need of redevelopment, the only way to return to a healthy urban fabric is incrementally, a few small projects a year until the neighborhood has buildings of every age and condition, suitable for adaptation to the particular needs of some future time.
One historic home at a time, St. Paul, MN is demonstrating how a critical mass of Strong Citizens can be an incredible asset to a troubled area, and how local government can play a constructive role in the incremental revitalization of such an area.
New York is frequently painted as the ideal city by urbanists, and this has resulted in a lot of justifiable skepticism from others. Here are some ways New York City’s big ideas can scale down to mid-size cities and small towns.
Professional planners are trained to yearn for tighter urban design controls, as if cities without comprehensive, top-down planning would devolve into chaos and disorder. In reality, cities evolve according to mechanisms that allow us to gradually discover optimal urban design across time.
To assume that a street-forward, mixed use development will activate a lifeless area is like assuming that gardening is a matter of “just add water.” In reality, different urban environments—like different soils, climates, and plants—require different elements of care.
In an area where the population is growing, one question often vexes neighbors: why is that house or storefront vacant? It just doesn’t seem to make sense. Why do landlords leave properties empty when they could be getting rent?