Thursday, November 16, 2006

A More Diverse and Integrated Baltimore

When I read the chapters on borders and diversity, I couldn't help but think about Baltimore, mostly because I don't know any other city better and I think Baltimore sets an example for most of the theories Jane Jacobs discusses. If Baltimore does fit into the mold that Jacobs describes about diversity, then Baltimore is in fact destroying itself. I notice it when I drive through the city to go to a doctor's appointment, pick up my brother from the train station, go to dinner with friends, or traveling to and from my internship. The city has its sections, its neighborhoods if you will and each one is more different than the next and each one is treated like its own little entity. In order for the city to thrive and have enough diversity to actually be successful, it needs to merge all these neighborhoods and each place has to rely on the one next to it to fulfill its needs.

Earlier this morning I was walking down St. Paul street south of the Washington Monument trying desperately to find an ATM to pay my parking fee in the Mercy Hospital garage. While I was walking on the street I saw business men and women, bus drivers, newspaper salesmen, random pedestrians, homeless people and a group of protestors chanting about low wages for carpenters and construction workers, all mingling together and existing on the same street, the same block and a half of sidewalk. It was miraculous, something I had never seen in Baltimore. It also lead to a feeling of complete safety. I never once had to worry that someone was following me, or looking at me funny, or wondering what I was doing. After reading the Jacobs I consider that section of Baltimore the epitome of a diversified city. It has banks, businesses, restaurants, groceries, stores, etc. making the section of downtown very safe and constantly populated with a wide variety of different people with different purposes.

The other idea that got me thinking about Baltimore in particular was the idea of merging and opening up the institutions of the city to the city. In class someone had mentioned the fact that Loyola's campus is closed off to the city, it's all inward, no one can see in and we can barely see out. This may be a reason why there is so much hostility regarding Loyola students, we are not accepting the city, we close it off and act as if it doesn't exist; I wouldn't like us much either. Again, while I was driving down St. Paul Street this morning I was watching the bussle around the new Barnes & Noble built for the John's Hopkins campus. The sidewalk is very large and has a multitude of benches in front of it. I saw so many different people sitting on those benches, standing on the sidewalks together, people that didn't all look like students, a mixing of several city people. This made me think of Jacobs when she said that the institutions of the city should open up their campus to the public, integrate itself so it can take place in the diversity and help the city as well. I thought the bookstore was a perfect example of something that is aiding in the diversifying and integrating of the city