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Celebrating Jane Jacobs

April is truly the cruelest month.  Or at least, with the news of Jane Jacobs’ death, the saddest. I had the great pleasure of getting to know Jane back in 2000 via a conference in her honor I helped organize with my Boston College Law School colleague Zyg Plater and a group of law students (BC houses her papers).  We stayed in touch, though infrequently.

This from The Death and Life of Great American Cities, her magnum opus:

It may be romantic to search for the salves of society’s ills in slow-moving rustic surroundings, or among innocent, unspoiled provincials, if such exist, but it is a waste of time.  Does anyone suppose that, in real life, answers to any of the great questions that worry us today are going to come out of homogeneous settlements?

            Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain seeds of their own destruction and little else.  But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.

Impassioned and opinionated, Jane was a maverick, a genius, a curmudgeon, a celebrator, an urbanist, an ecologist, a peace activist, an intellectual, a citizen planner and so many other things. 

She got us thinking about sidewalks and busy streets, to be sure, but she really got us thinking about our collective soul, the spirit that animates and energizes our places, that gives them life and authenticity. 

The death and life. . . The title seems so fitting now.  Surely she will live on in the hearts and souls of every community worthy of the name.

Long live Jane Jacobs.

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