Living in Jane Jacobs’ Neighborhood

In the Rainey Street District of Austin, Texas, a stranger approached my dog, hand extended. “Puppy!” she shrieked weirdly, a piercing decibel, especially for the hour of day. My first thought is that she closed the bars and is drunk, but, she’s not. She and her friend are in fashionable workout gear, probably all ginned up on coffee and ready for some speed-walking.

Otherwise, relative calm prevails early mornings in my neighborhood when I slip out the door to take Ezzy for her walk.

My neighborhood is a trendy downtown bar district, home to live music, food trucks, drinking holes and raucous partying. But early mornings, it’s even better, with neighbor brushing against neighbor and work crews quietly coming and going, cleaning up what was left behind from the previous night’s revelries. I stop to put a beer glass on an outdoor table that someone has left on the sidewalk outside of Bangers and exchange hellos with the manager.

“How’s the girl?” Brian says. My daughter worked for him the summer before college. He wrote a warm reference letter on her behalf for a volunteer program she’s now involved with at university. When my husband and I stop in for drinks, Brian sometimes says they’re on the house and we trade stories about vacation and raising teenagers.

In the early 2000s I read Jane Jacobs’ magnum opus, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, on the workings of a great city. This 585-page hardback enjoys a prominent place on my shelf, standing proud though dozens of fuchsia post-it-notes marking the best of the best sections from my first read protrude like a child’s unruly tufts of hair. Jacobs was a long-time resident of Greenwich Village and she starts her book at the beginning, with the humble sidewalk, the fundamental building block of a city.

Read in full on StrongTowns.org

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