Help Mourn What #UsedToBe in Your Community

Throughout her life, Jane Jacobs was a steadfast defender of urban neighbourhoods. This was especially true with regards to the so-called urban renewal schemes of the 1950s and 60s, when the solution to almost any perceived city problem was to “tear it down.” This resulted in large-scale "orderly but dumb" demolition of once vibrant neighborhoods and forced relocation of residents.

In her influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs argued that this urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers. Where urban renewal advocates saw decaying neighborhoods and “slums,” Jacobs saw affordable spaces that fostered diversity and resilience in our cities. She articulated this observation as a now famous aphorism: "New ideas often need old buildings."

Jane Jacobs' writing and activism (she was arrested and jailed in 1968 for her protest against the Lower Manhattan Expressway) showed people across North America that they could fight urban renewal—and win. Despite Jacobs’ numerous victories, urban renewal created countless scars on our urban landscape, many that remain today. We want your help in documenting these spaces.

Help us honor Jane Jacobs' legacy and mourn the effects of urban renewal

Between May 2 and 6, 2016, help us honor the legacy of Jane Jacobs and mourn the effects of urban renewal by sharing photographs of urban renewal sites in your city on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #UsedToBe, explaining what was once on the site.


  1. Between May 2 and 6 take pictures of urban renewal sites in your town.
  2. Upload your photos to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #UsedToBe.  (Turning on location services will also greatly aid us in mapping out these posts all over the country.)
  3. Include a brief description of what was there before it was turned into a highway, stadium, mall, parking lot etc. You can also let us know what you think the site could become in the future.
  4. Tell your friends about this event via social media. Share a link to our Jane Jacobs page so they can learn more.
  5. Visit our website on Friday, May 6 to view the top photos from across the country.

We'll keep a live stream both here and at and, at the end of the week, we'll highlight the top photos.

If you have any questions about this competition, please contact Yuri Artibise, Strong Towns Community Builder, at