Skip to content

What Would Jane Jacobs Do?

Why the question remains so vital today.
relates to What Would Jane Jacobs Do?
Juan Novakosky /

On a presidential campaign trail paved with discussions of border walls, Supreme Court nominees and terrorism fears, candidates have hardly mentioned cities beyond, perhaps, a remark about “New York values.” Yet a national agenda in this century must be an urban one. Two-thirds of the population now lives in the nation’s largest 100 metropolitan areas, and nearly 100 million more people are projected to live in American cities by 2050—swelled by the ambitious who move to them and those lucky enough to be born in them. Urban property values attest both to the desirability of cities and also to the scarcity of affordable housing as population growth outstrips new construction.

This week marks the centennial of the birth of Jane Jacobs, one of the world’s greatest urban visionaries, and her observations have never been more relevant or needed in our national dialog and in our cities than today, 10 years after her death. Jacobs first made her mark through her masterwork, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961 and still in print. It is required reading for elected leaders, urban planners and ordinary citizens.