Two days ago, an important voice, who challenged the status quo, died in Toronto, where she had lived. Jane Jacobs was a social critic who redefined and championed cities. Jacobs, who wrote the seminal work, â€œThe Death and Life of Great American Citiesâ€ in 1961, was a hero of mine and of many others who believe that urban centers like Evanston must be diverse, dynamic, and dense, in order to be successful. By congregating people and activities and promoting more social interaction, Jacobs offered prescriptions that questioned the often-destructive and popular urban renewal methods.
Today, Evanston has become an archetype Jane Jacobs city. The Chamber, Evmark, Evanston Inventure, our city planners, real estate developers, and our elected officials have all followed Jacobsâ€™ model of neighborhood diversity, density in commercial areas, and a mix of buildings and uses. I also think Jane Jacobs would have welcomed a Chamber that celebrates rail transportation because public transit was an inherent part of her modern planning.
When you step out of this grand building tonight and on to an active and lively downtown street, you should know that Jane Jacobsâ€™ spirit and influence lives in Evanston.
Jonathan Perman is Executive Director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. This is an excerpt from remarks on given on April 27 at the chamber's 86th Annual Meeting held at The Womanâ€™s Club of Evanston.