Jane Jacobs: City Planning Visionary

By: Brooke Downey

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was a pivotal figure in reducing the gap between planning the city and living in the city. This idea was a core point in her most famous work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961).


Before becoming famous for her criticism of New York City planner, Robert Moses, Jacobs began her life in Scranton, Pennsylvania (before that was made famous by the sitcom The Office). While growing up, Jacobs showed an interest in writing and when she moved to NYC in 1935, many of her jobs related to journalism.


Her experience living in Greenwich Village made her an early proponent of mixed-use neighbourhoods. She saw the rising popularity of suburban-style development to be detrimental to neighbourhoods. In 1968, she was arrested for inciting a riot during a public meeting about the Lower Manhattan Expressway.


Not long after, Jacobs made her way to Toronto where she made her mark on a similar battle – the proposed Spadina Expressway. Neither of these projects would end up being built. She also helped to push for the planned revitalization of the St. Lawrence market to be mixed-use and mixed-income.


Every May cities across the world honour her work and their urban communities with Jane’s Walk.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 9.38.29 AM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

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