I HAVE CALLED Columbus home for 11 years. I spent the early years growing up in the Polaris area. Living there is probably what sparked much of my teen angst as I despised what I would later learn to call “urban sprawl.” My afterschool job was at a chain store. I shopped at big box stores and I was a slave to my cash-hungry car. My sanctuary was the Short North. There, I could ditch my car, meet new people, and stick it to the proverbial man by frequenting local businesses. Most importantly, I favored the sense of place and the sense of community lost somewhere between the seas of asphalt and eight lanes of high-velocity Polaris traffic.
This situation is not unique to Columbus. In New York City’s Greenwich Village, graphic designer Mike Joyce was unhappy that every store and restaurant he loved in the neighborhood was being pushed out of business by chains and franchises like Starbucks, Ralph Lauren, and yes, Marc Jacobs. This was the result of rents doubling and tripling. Witnessing the loss of his favorite restaurants due to being priced out of the neighborhood drove him to launch the grassroots campaign “More Jane Jacobs, Less Marc Jacobs.”
PAUSE. Who is Jane Jacobs and why do we want more of her?
Jane Jacobs was a journalist, activist, and a fearless critic of inflexible authority. She is the author of the 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, that revolutionized urban planning from the post-WWII utopian planning culture of tower blocks, highways through city hearts and slum clearances. Jane Jacobs challenged a ruthless urban planner named Robert Moses and his plans to build a highway through Greenwich Village. Moses’ impact on New York City was profound and his insensitivity was legendary. His downfall came at the same time as the rise of Jane Jacobs.