Thursday, November 16, 2006

Define Diversity

Diversity? Why is that important in a city? It is clear from our past stories that diversity is important in the development of our stories and our characters. When we read Naylor’s stories we learned that diversity aka the women of Brewster Place were not going to be ignored. We learned that no wall is going to remove diversity from the city. We learn that diversity is a living breathing part of a city and without the diversity in a city the city begins to decay.
Defining diversity becomes difficult and I think Jacobs addresses that issue because for many people the word diversity is directly related to the word race. Race is not the synonym of diversity and Jacob makes it clear that although a city needs that type of diversity as well, it needs diversity in its entirety. Cities need diversity in their age population, their overall population, diversity in buildings and institutions and diversity in their businesses. Most importantly cities need a “high population” of people because as human beings we are, no mater how much it may not seen like the case, very different from one another, we are unique.
Baltimore is its own unique city and what makes Baltimore enjoyable and exciting for me is the diversity that you can find within it. I still think that there are many places that need more diversity, because many of the areas are homogeneous and it is in these areas that we see a large amount of decay. The lack of diversity in our population hinders the city and Jacobs is right in the statement that we are the ones held responsible. Even within Loyola we lack diversity and as much as we focus on city we should also focus on our campus. Because cities that ignore diversity begin to slowly decay, can’t the same be said of “campus cities”?

Agree and Disagree with Jane Jacobs

In reading Jane Jacob’s sections “The self- destruction of diversity” and “The curse of border vacuums” I strongly agreed with her on some points, and also disagreed with her on other ideas, sometimes within the very same paragraph. Many of her insights were things that directly coincided with my personal experiences, and then in several examples she gave to support an idea I had an example proving the exact opposite.
Beginning with her very first paragraph I strongly agree with her that “we need all kinds of diversity, intricately mingled in mutual support” (pg 241). I think she does a very good job of reiterating how important diversity is, but I found her reasons for why diversity is so important somewhat vague. She does go into detail that a flourishing part of a city is functional because of the diverse elements of business and enterprises that appeal to so many different kinds of people. But I think she does not get to the core of diversity and how it can bring different kinds of people together, to educate them about similarities and differences, while uniting them in human interaction. While I agree with her in some areas the repetition of the same business can destroy diversity I also think that one area of the city can be a functional unit in one specific interest and still attract different groups of people. I say this because of a street I know, called Chippewa Street in Buffalo, New York. Chippewa Street is a strip of bars, night-clubs, and restaurants. Although the buildings are the same and the same business duplicated, it draws so many different people and age groups to mingle and socialize, both at nighttime and daytime. Although the area has the same enterprises, each unit or place is different enough that people are free to choose from the different atmospheres of each building, cultivating diversity and bringing people together.
I disagreed with Jacob’s general conclusion that often times waterfronts serve as a border vacuum, simply because being a part of Baltimore, and seeing how successful the Inner Harbor is, my experience is opposite to her observations. Although I agreed with Jacob’s when she said “It is curious, too, how frequently the immediate neighborhoods surrounding big-city university campuses… are extraordinarily blight-prone” (258). I agreed with her because I witness everyday the economic, cultural, and structural differences of Loyola’s pristine campus and the rundown areas of York Road. In reading more of Jacob’s I realized it was impossible to separate her view of city planning and my personal experiences with cities. Yet I think this interpretative reading is positive because it engaged me more in the text, and made me think of ways we can improve our surrounding city. For example I agreed very much with her when she writes, “Street by street, as you move away from the project borders, a little more life is to be found, progressively a little more brightness, but it takes many streets before the gradual increase of economic activity and movement of people become strong”. I have seen this in visiting Beans and Bread, and before reading this chapter I have written about this issue in my journal entries. I concur with Jacobs that borders can certainly exist as barriers, but that it is not impossible to break these barriers and create positive ties between the different city borders and districts. I think we are on are way in breaking barriers through our service learning and volunteer work in the city of Baltimore. Through reaching out and creating ties in service we are not diminishing borders, but we are creating ties between different areas. When Jacobs speaks about the separateness of campuses I agreed with her it can be a disadvantage, and I think Loyola College, especially through the “Year of he City” has created a compelling push for students to unite with other areas of the city they belong to.

Don't Fence Me In

Jacobs, in discussing the nature of physical borders in cities, notes, "Often borders are thought of as passive objects, or matter-of-factly just as edges. However, a border exerts an active influence."(257) In Naylor's, "The Women of Brewster Place", a wall had been erected by the city council that separated the buildings of Brewster Place from the propserous street that it was adjacent to. The wall not only served as a physical reminder to the residents of the community that they were "walled-off" from the city, or in other words not considered an integral concern by the city council or its citizens; the wall actually led Brewster Place's residents to believe the sentiment that they were not worthy of the same respect or concern as the citizens of the more economically successful areas of the city, illustarting the power of the influence of such borders.
Jacobs says that the process of phasing a street out from the main-stream of the action in the city is a gradual process, "Consequently, the street that adjoins a border is a terminus of generalized use. If this street, which is the end of the line for people in the area of the ordinary city, also get little or no use from people inside the single-use, border-framing territory, it is bound to be a deadened place, with scant users. This deadness can have further reprecussions."(259) Naylor described the community of Brewster Place as an originally ambitious project. However, as it fell into disrepair, and was consequently separated from the city by a large brick wall, the sentiment of the community changed as well; its own members regarded certain alleys as "trouble-spots", and avoided them rather than confronting them. These alleys, left untouched, became the breeding ground for the "hoodlums" of the area. It took a horrific event, the raping of an innocent woman, then subsequently the death of innocent man, to awaken the people of the community from their lulled succession to the treatment they had been enduring (or perhaps lack of treatment, as they had been effectively ignored by their own city).
The women of Brewster Place had a psuedo-spiritual awakening and literally tore down the wall, brick by brick, with their bare hands. The removal of the physical barrier that had been placed between them and, essentially, the rest of the world (or so I imagined it would feel to anyone who was walled-off like that), was a visible denial of the succlusion they had been placed in, and for many years, simply accepted. What Naylor and Jacobs are saying, as well as what we have frequently discussed in class, is that you cannot ever separate yourself from the city. In the case of the women of Brewster Place, it may take a catastrophic event to make that abundantly clear, but whether it be a significant event, or a gradual occurrence, the city will break through the barrier, because it is inherently connected to its citizens as a living entity, and we are connected to the city,

Loyola: A City College?

I felt as if much of the reading of Jane Jacobs’s, The Death and Life of Great American Cities is directly related to Baltimore City. Her commentary of diversity and borders in the city, are specifically insightful. These genius observations by Jane Jacobs relating to the city effectively help explain the destructive and progressive aspects of the city and its people. After reading, I now consider that much of the responsibility of the death of parts of a city relates to the physical downfalls and errors in the planning process of the buildings and institutions throughout the city. This downfall is not completely contributed solely to the preliminary planning stage, but to the new stages of additional development and renovation, specifically with physical and unintentional borders created by establishments throughout the city. Jane Jacobs discusses the barriers and borders created by universities in the city.

Many of Jane Jacob’s elements of the creation of physical borders are demonstrated at Loyola. When driving along the surrounding streets of Loyola, there is literally no view of the beautiful campus. Driving on Coldspring Lane, the view of Loyola College is the back of our buildings. It seems as if Loyola deliberately has constructed a completely physical wall around the campus, separating us from the surroundings. The Cold Spring entrances of Newman Towers, which actually face the street, have been sealed off. All of Loyola’s buildings face inward—not outward—creating the illusion that we are separate from our neighborhood and the city around us. When you do not have the view of the back of a building, large sprawling and towering bushes and hedges obscure the view of Loyola, when driving at a moderate pace, only quick glimpses can be seen. When thinking about it, the only exception I could find at Loyola is the location of the Fitness and Aquatic Center, an establishment for which we are notoriously known. Even the FAC has a wrought iron and brick fence along the sidewalk, but at least the landscape can be seen from the street. Maybe the Fitness and Aquatic Center, one of the newer buildings of Loyola, was an attempt to break the physical barriers so steeped in Loyola’s history.

Bringing Down Borders

Jane Jacob’s assessment on borders seems to be quite valid for any city. She writes, “Often borders are thought of as passive objects, or matter-of-factly just as edges. However, a border exerts an active influence” (157). Jacob’s assessment of borders is a reality, and it is true that the results will be rewarding if we try to eliminate these borders, whether they are physical or not.

Jacobs writes, “The true trouble with borders, as city neighbors, is that they are apt to form dead ends for most users of city streets. They represent, for most people, most of the time, barriers” (259). In The Women of Brewster Place, the wall is a symbol of limitations, which leads to the women’s decision to tear it down at the end of the novel. When they tear down this wall, they are declaring that they will not allow barriers in their city. They crave interaction with the rest of the city, as well as respect. The tearing down of the wall shows the determination of these women to change their reputation with the surrounding communities. They wish to end the cycle that they have always been a part of. They understand that borders are inhibiting. Jacobs mentions that borders do not allow “continuous mingling of people, present because of different purposes”. Borders prevent streets from interconnecting, thus preventing the entire city from association altogether. Sadly, “ [the border is the] only device that encourages districts to form a place of fragmented, self-isolated neighborhoods or backwaters” (259). People erect borders within their city because they want to be surrounded by what is familiar to them. They want to close off the outside world, so that they can live an isolated life. In Krik? Krak!, the boy and the girl are able to exchange letters to each other regardless of the distance that separates them. Clearly, borders are not an issue for them. They transcend the brokenness of their homeland of Haiti, which is very divided by borders. Likewise, Danticat is trying to disintegrate the borders we erect by calling out to a universal audience. She is trying to connect with us by yelling Krik!, in hopes that we will display our attention by replying Krak!. She wants to connect with her audience without anything prohibiting this-race, class, etc, so that we can understand her message. Marco Polo sees a similarity with every city he visits in Invisible Cities, which shows his ability to transcend the borders that may be in place within and outside of each city. Following this pattern, Kolvenbach’s mission for the entire Jesuit community is centered on interaction with the city, which is aimed at eliminating or somewhat breaking the borders of cities. In No Longer at Ease, Obi attempts to transcend the borders his village creates, but they do not allow him to do so. Clearly, borders are an inevitable part of cities. Whether these borders are physical, racial, economic, or cultural, they do exist. However, accepting these borders does not have to be a part of our interaction with the city. We must strive to overcome them.

When we do our service, we are challenging the borders that are within our city. If we leave the popular areas of Baltimore and traverse to the less populated edges of town, we are making use of that wasted space that Jacobs despises so greatly. If borders are rendered useless by sections, it seems as though the only solution would be to join everything within the city, so that there are no more borders whatsoever. Is this really possible? Perhaps it is not. However, it is possible to remove some of the barriers that are present within the city. Blurring, if not eliminating the lines that divide our cities inside and out, seems to be the ultimate way to aid in their survival.

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

Lenses

Can the cities be united?

Throughout this semester, we have seen so many different cities. From the many varying cities of Calvino to the focused view of our own city, Baltimore, we have analyzed, defined and discussed several different characteristics about each city. And when thinking about all of the cities that we have seen thus far, what is something that unites them all? There is only one thing I can think of, and that is us. That we have seen each of these cities through these different authors’ lenses and developed opinions on each city and discussed it to a certain length, questioning and commenting on so many different parts of each city.
And in some ways this is very good. Because we do get to open our eyes, our lenses some might say, to take in all of these different cities. However, the thing that is the most important in this is that there still is a lens. No matter in how many ways one views the city or in how many books one reads about the city, there is always a lens, sometimes a false one, sometimes a stereotypical one. However, there doesn’t seem to be a way to break that lens.
While I was walking down Charles Street, waiting for the Walters Museum to open, it dawned on me that I had driven by these shops and cafes several times previously but had never seen them in this light, expanding the lens that I had about that specific area of Charles Street. However, had I seen all of that area of Charles Street? I later on realized no, because as I was looking for the bus stop that would take me back to Loyola, I passed by the same shops again, not realizing that I was retracing steps that I had made only hours previously. So, again the lens was expanded. And even if I had seen this part of Charles Street in every light imaginable, this was only a narrow block of the entire city of Baltimore, how would I be able to see Baltimore, as the city that it is, not through any lenses, if this one small part of it had taken so long for me to see?
Is it possible to break these lenses that we see our own city through? This is even more true for cities that we haven’t seen with our own eyes. I have never seen Port-au-Prince; but, now, I have a lens to see it through. The only way that I would be able to expand on the lens is by going to Port-au-Prince or hearing someone else’s view on it. But even then, I or the other person I am reading have/has made choices to see certain things in a certain way.
Is there a way to remove the lens in order to see the city as the city? Or must we continuously strive to expand our lenses but never be able to see it as it truly is? Is there even such a thing? Or is everything in our world only seen through our lenses?

Social Implications of Borders and Diversity

Borders are not solely dangerous physical limitations but also very dangerous social limitations. Jacobs, for very good reasons, chose not to address these social boundaries that exist within cities, but implicitly hinted at their effects. I found it quite interesting how well the two chapters concerning diversity and borders fit together. A point Jacobs doesn’t explicitly make but I felt was a strong notion was that fact that this lack and presence of diversity depend on the borders that the city creates.

Jacobs speaks of businesses moving to where the most profit occurs at a particular time and location in the city. With this grand relocation they destroy the physical diversity that once thrived. These thriving portions of the city always rely on location. These locations depend on the borders that surround them. Like Jacobs stated, the borders are hardly places where diversity could ever thrive, in fact, hardly any citizens of the city inhabit these borders. These borders many times mark the position where certain districts in the city begin and where they end.

Naylor spoke of the wall that served as a border between Brewster Place and the more upscale portions of the city. The wall is a not only a constant reminder of the physical barrier that separates Brewster Place but it also serves as a social reminder of their lower class status. Jacobs mentions that she will not discuss the social aspect of borders in cities but I believe that is a very important factor. The physical borders Jacobs so accurately describes has an unbelievable effect on the people affected by those borders.

Examples of the social impact due to borders are the statements people make when they talk about the projects. As Chris Rock once said, “Black people don’t want to live in the ghetto either.” Different bordered communities have stereotypes that the people that live there feel more comfortable that those people that enter in without living there. The mayor of Newark, NJ, although black, and living in the projects, probably does not feel welcome there for a number of other reasons. As we get farther into this class I begin to notice that most of the social borders put up between people are ones concerning class, rather than race. I am not trying to say that racism is not a problem, but when I think of problems facing prejudices, I believe that people within their own race judge one another based on class. Borders and the desire to get into certain locations in the city cause these class issues.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

City as a Commodity

For the past several months working as a Real Estate, I have come to realize how important the home can be to a family or individual. It is not only shelter, but also a definition of that person considering its architectural characteristics and especially its location. My company focuses on the satisfaction of the customer’s want and/or need. Most of the time customers demand that location become a part of their equation when finding their dream house. This concept of residential “location” has been turned into a commodity as pointed out by Jane Jacobs in her book, The Death and Life of the Great American Cities.
The focus of many architects or city designers in not based on the needs of the already established population. Their goals have turned toward the needs and wants of a new wealthier consumer population moving into the cities. As Jacobs explain the streets and areas of the city have become “successful”. She states, “ We are accustomed to thinking of streets, or neighborhoods of streets as divided into functional uses—entertainment, offices, residents, shopping or the like. And so they are, but only to a degree if they maintain their success” (245). There is no focus on improving on the people who live there now. It is on the focus in on the new improvements coming into the city. The city has turned into a commodity to become successful in the arena of the new population.
By turning the city into a commodity and attracting a different class of people to the city, it only creates more problems, and it is not a cure. The commodity is very harmful to established people in the city. The people of Baltimore can be easily placed aside to make room for bigger and better apartments, shopping, and entertainment for the new population moving. The city of Baltimore should first focus on its own internal problems before electing new populations in.

Waterfront Property

For an assignment at my internship, I had the unique opportunity this morning to meet with an architect and an interior designer in Canton for a walk-through of a condominium they had renovated. Driving into Canton, I suddenly felt like I was no longer in Baltimore anymore; rather, I could have been at the Jersey "shore" or in southern California because the sunlight was brightly glistening off the water and everything seemed to draw attention to the waterfront. The homeowners had probably paid a fortune to give up their two-story house in suburban Washington D.C. to live in this tiny condominium, well-designed but remarkable mostly for its waterfront view. I learned that Canton used to be a center of industry in Baltimore and that most of the waterfront properties coveted by real estate seekers today were actually warehouses that manufactured goods like tin boxes. The working class people of Baltimore used to make their livings here, and I suspect one of the only things they could look forward to in the morning was the breathtaking view of the harbor that people pay huge sums of money for today.

Jacobs writes: "...the relatively few city residential districts that do become outstandingly magnetic and successful at generating diversity and vitality are subjected ultimately to the same forces of self-destruction as downtowns. In this case, so many people want to live in the locality that it becomes profitable to build, in excessive and devastating quantity, for those who can pay the most. These are usually childless people, and today they are not simply people who can pay the most in general, but people who can or will pay the most for the smallest space." (249). It's strange to think that much of the character and charm of a neighborhood that draws wealthy people to Canton was built on the sweat and toil of working class people who never found anything glamorous about their 9-5 and their warehouses. But now it's chic to live in a converted warehouse. It's like displaying the fact that you have enough money to sleep peacefully in a bed you make on the workbench that a blue collar worker used to make your goods.

Then again, I would love to live in Canton Cove or any other waterfront property; it's one of my dreams, actually. And honestly, I guess I wouldn't think too much of the gentrification if it didn't effect me personally. This doesn't really have to do with Baltimore but another city, Wildwood, NJ. Most people probably wouldn't find Wildwood, on the southernmost tip of NJ to be the most classiest place, but it's particularly special to me because my parents used to take me there every summer as a child for at least a week, and it's where I first fell in love with the beach and beach culture. I still make it a point to visit now, even though my parents don't understand why I refuse to try other summer destinations. Every time I visit Wildwood, more and more of the DooWop (1950s) style motels are demolished for luxury condominiums. This doesn't make any sense to me and is a cause for sadness. Wildwood is not ready to sustain these people with higher incomes because a lot of the city, especially in the northern end, is not in great shape. The city's reputation is its ability to draw families, especially those with lower incomes. The beach is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, remains free (a rarity of NJ beaches) and shouldn't be restricted to only those people who can afford ridiculously high waterfront property prices. I guess wherever there's water and a view, the same thing occurs.

Borders

The second half of the Jacob's novel contains an extensive analysis of the borders surrounding the city. While not literal, the single use buildings literally keep the city (or parts of the city) in while making a subtle statement to the outside world to steer clear. She considers these boundaries to be dangerous and unhealthy for the life of a city, as the residents feel trapped on all sides and there is no free flow of movement. In short, it creates a dead end in a supposedly vital area.

This reminded me specifically of the wall in Brewster Place. The building had be thriving and full of life and culture and families before the wall went up. After, the people became depressed and defeated and Brewster Place quickly went into a decline. The women, it's new lifesource, felt the effects and began to give up. Maddie moves to Brewster place because she has no other choice. For her and most of the women in the building, Brester really is a dead end both literally and figuratively. The wall not only kept the women in and the world out, but it began to keep them down as well. This physical separation had distastrous consequences and had to be violently removed for the women to be able to breathe.

I was also reminded of a more mental border, but a border no less in Tess' world in Butchers Hill. She describes the supposed hierarchy of the neighborhoods in Baltimore and how the residents are able to feel superior to others based on their location, although only bounded by a name. Certain older residents, she says, will even ask you what side of the water tower you lived on in a specific neighborhood. This is essentially the same thing as the age old question of the railroad tracks to which Jacobs refers. Whether a physical building or wall or a mental boundary and the prejudices of the 'tracks', cities are both bounded from the outside and divided within and as we learn from Naylor's novel, things walled up too long eventually explode.

The Naturalness of the City

Jane Jacobs discusses the sentimentalizing of nature in the closing to her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jacobs asserts, “It is neither love for nature nor respect for nature that leads to this schizophrenic attitude. Instead, it is a sentimental desire to toy…with some insipid, standardized, suburbanized shadow of nature…And so, each day, several thousand more acres of our countryside are eaten by the bulldozers, covered by pavement, dotted with suburbanites who have killed the thing they thought they came to find” (Jacobs 445). The naturalness of the city is spurned for a vague, idealized notion of nature that people convince themselves is real. The real nature is destroyed as people seek to commune with their idealized nature and the naturalness of the city is forgotten. For the past decade Baltimoreans have fled the city in search of better education, nicer housing, and more “nature” and space in the suburbs. Catonsville, Columbia, and other areas around Baltimore continue to grow at an alarming rate, the trees and open space of Howard County, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County giving way to identical “McMansions.” Those who cannot afford to leave the city remain as the schools and houses that were left behind fall into disrepair. The city is neglected as people who see “only disorder in the life of city streets” (Jacobs 447) flee to the suburbs.

In her book, Jacobs describes the desecration of a park by “improvers on nature” (446). Instead of allowing the natural wonders of the park to flourish, developers demolished a slope of muddy clay on a strip of beach in order to make room for a retaining wall that extended that park’s lawns. This example is interesting for me to consider because my neighbors “improved” their property in the exact same way. They moved in next door a few years ago and tore down the original beach cottage that had served as the previous residents’ home for over fifty years. They built an enormous pier and razed the bamboo growing on a hill to make room for a retaining wall. The retaining wall also covered the natural deposit of clay that my brother and I collected as children, and that my mother and her cousins collected over thirty years ago. In their effort to enjoy nature, my neighbors destroyed the natural wonders that were already there. It is not entirely fair for me to criticize my neighbors because my family did essentially the same thing. My great-great-grandfather did not build a pier, but he did construct a retaining wall to keep the hill that he built his house on from sliding into the river. He fled the city and my grandparents and mother fled their row house in Dundalk every summer for the suburban house. Eventually they stayed in the suburbs year-round.

Jacobs notes that “Vital cities have marvelous innate abilities for understanding, communicating, contriving and inventing what is required to combat their difficulties” (Jacobs 447). It is time for us to stop fleeing the problems of our sick cities; we need to stay and make our cities vital so that they are able to combat their difficulties. Dundalk and other areas are suffering because the people who are able to make changes and contribute to the economy and life of the city are leaving.

Encountering a city in relation to Jacobs' analysis

Encountering a city means that one experiences both the good and the bad that the area has to offer. No city is perfect. Jane Jacobs, in her The Death and Life of Great American Cities, repeats numerous times that one must prevent a city from failure, as the city will thus become undesirable. I believe, on the other hand, that this cycle of life and death of a city is crucial to its development and to its history. As one delves into the reasons for a city’s failure, one learns about the potential that the area once had and the opportunities that could arise there in the future.

Jacobs, in her analysis of cities, gives many descriptions of the deaths that a city could encounter, highlighting in the second half of the book the lack of diversity that results from success. Jacobs states that each successful city eventually decays due to replication and to the lack of diversity that occurs: “Thus, from this process, one or few dominating uses finally emerge triumphant…From this point on, the locality will gradually be deserted by people using it for purposes other than those that emerged triumphant from the competition—because the other purposes are no longer there…In time, a place that was once so successful and once the object of such ardent competition, wanes and becomes marginal” (Jacobs 243). As people recognize the economic opportunities that are available in a certain area, they build their own versions of the desired establishments, thus leading to increasing competition and to a need to relocate, which further leads to desolation in the sections as the residents do not see the novelty that the first business once had. There is no remaining diversity in the area because there are only duplications of the existing organizations. According to Jacobs, this lack of diversity then leads to “pockets of nothing much at all, places which the most intensive new combinations of diversity have by-passed or over which they have leapfrogged…There is space here, but nothing to catalyze uses for it” (Jacobs 248). Instead of having these sections of constant replications, Jacobs states, there needs to be an incentive to move these businesses to other areas which might have a need for their purposes: “The problem is to hamper excess duplications at one place, and divert them instead to other places in which they will not be excess duplications, but healthy additions…They must be places where the use concerned will have an excellent opportunity for sustained success” (Jacobs 252). Only if establishments place themselves in unique locations will they be able to prosper because they will be the only providers of a service that benefits a community. Jacobs highlights the trend that duplicating businesses leads to degradation in an area because the residents will not see the novelty that the organizations bring and thus will leave the section to die from competition.

Jacobs’ error lies in her inability to notice that a city’s failures in the past form an important part of the area’s history and can be an indicator of the possibilities that could uplift the city. Jacobs never delves into the history surrounding the cities’ businesses, only stating that they arrived, they multiplied, they destroyed diversity, and they died – there is no analysis as to why these particular organizations decided to found themselves in that certain area. For example, a bookstore may have chosen its location because it was close to a prosperous elementary school. Thus, other bookstores decided to take advantage of the advantageous location and built their establishments there. Jacobs only focuses on the second part of this example, where the stores duplicate themselves, instead of focusing on the fact that there was a particular school in the area that needed their services. The crucial point of this history lies in the school – the center of the city’s future in that it provides an education to the children who will shape the city in the years to come. One needs to research this failure of the bookstores in order to understand that area of the city. Failure is part of a city’s history. Encountering a city lies in encountering both its prosperous and its decaying sections. One needs to delve deeper in an area in order to unearth its past, even if this past includes failure. The study of history is based on success and on failure. One can learn from both of these. Moreover, this cycle of life and death is necessary in order to ensure that progress and maturity occur in the area. If a city remains the same, there is no guarantee that it will survive. It is this constant state of change that garners people’s attention. Furthermore, nowhere does Jacobs state that these businesses that were once crowded-out could return to the open pocket in order to once again cause the area to strive. She just assumes that they will lay in decay forever. She demonstrates no hope for the ability of the residents to come to the deserted section with a new idea that may alleviate its current situation. In addition to negating the value of a decaying area, Jacobs also ignores the possibilities of rebirth and of re-growth that could result from destruction.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is Baltimore's Diversity Good or Destructive?

Something that makes Baltimore unique from any other city in America and any other city in the world, for that matter, is its diversity. Not restricted to the citizens, Baltimore's diversity is something that is very tangible and is illustrated via the numerous neighborhoods. In Laura Lippman's novel, Butcher's Hill, her main character, Tess Monaghan, gives the reader a little insight to all of these different areas: "Roland Park looked down on Tuxedo Park, which felt itself superior to Evergreen, where people fretted they would be mistaken for Hampden-ites, whose feelings were hurt by the suggestion that they lived in Remington, where people sneered at Pigtown (Lippman, 187)." The term "checker-board city," has come up many times in our class discussion about Baltimore. One minute, you could be driving through Mt. Vernon or Charles Village and the next, your doors will be locked, and windows rolled up as you pass through Govans. Such diversity is what gives Baltimore its charm. Let's face it, the city would be completely different if it were comprised solely of the Inner Harbor and Fell's Point.

However, it is this diversity that Jane Jacobs warns us about in her novel, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. As we have learned from her novel thus far, cities go through different periods of growth. At times they progress, at others they retrogress. Jacobs discusses her theory of the "self-destruction of diversity," which can be defined as a city's ability to destroy itself as a result of the various levels of success a city enjoys based on its diversity within. This occurs when a particular neighborhood undergoes a period of re-growth, attracting a large number to it, while it establishes itself as a population center. "This is a force that creates has-been districts, and is responsible for much inner-city stagnation and decay (Jacobs, 242)." Baltimore has been praised in recent years for the revitalization of the Inner Harbor. Well, that's all fine and great, but what about the blocks upon blocks of condemned row houses? This is the perfect example of Baltimore destroying itself.

Jacobs goes on to assert that, "A diversified mixture of uses at some place in the city becomes outstandingly popular and successful as a whole. Because of the locations success, which is incurably based on flourishing and magnetic diversity, ardent competition for space in this locality develops. It is taken up in what amounts to the economic equivalent of a fad (Jacobs, 243)" Again, this theory manifests itself in Baltimore. How many new Marriots are going up in the Inner Harbor? On the water in Federal Hill, the Ritz-Carlton is building "luxury condos," starting at one mill. These areas are experiencing an economic boost, while areas like Govans and Butcher's Hill are riddled with pot-holes and gangs.

I think that what Jacobs is trying to show us, is that diversity is an important aspect of what makes a city great, and that we should not forego this diversity for the sake of the neighborhood. If the city undergoes revitalization on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, it can never really progress, as some parts will be unequal to others.