Jane Jacobs Still Looking Good At 100

Jane Jacobs - Library of Congress Photo

Toronto’s often called a city of neighborhoods. Each one has it’s own distinct look and feel and this is due in part to urban theorist Jane Jacobs. She passed away in 2006, but her advocacy and activism helped build “a city built for people, not cars”.

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

–Jane Jacobs

Jane is remembered as the person who saved Greenwich Village from super-villain city planner Robert Moses. During the 1950s, Moses fell in love with car-centric planning and attempted to use an obscure slum clearance law to raze The Village. He proposed replacing it with an expressway and luxury high-rise condominiums.
Jacobs recruited influential people like Eleanor Roosevelt and William H Whyte, and eventually succeeded in blocking the project. She continued to advocate for human based neighborhoods throughout the 60s until 1968 – when moved her two sons to Toronto to avoid drafting into a war she was adamantly opposed too.

The Spadina Expressway

Car-centric planning wasn’t just catching on in the US. Politicians and city planners envisioned highways criss-crossing every part of Toronto. The new Gardiner Expressway that cut the city off from the lake was a success, and city wanted to try it’s luck again. That’s where the Spadina Expressway came from, a highway that ran through Spadina Avenue. To build it, they would need to destroy the Annex and Kensington Market neighborhoods.
Lucky for us, Jane had just moved to Toronto’s American draft-dodging ghetto (the Annex). Having just dealt with this in Greenwich, she knew exactly how to mobilize people to put a quick stop to it.

The Two Kings

In 1996, Jane worked with Toronto mayor Barbara Hall to establish urban “reinvestment areas.” These areas would rezone vacant warehouses to create mixed residential and commercial spaces. It became known as “The Two Kings” – one at King and Spadina, the other at King and Parliament. These two seedy area transformed into coveted development spaces. I know, you miss the one-hour motel at the corned of King and Spadina, but life moves on.


Jane100 is a series of events, walks, and exhibitions run throughout May. Each one will focus on her influence in the neighborhood, so if you want to find out more check out Jane100.com.

Photo Source: LOC.

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