104805-500-338Jane Jacobs is a bit of a hero of ours. An urban living champion, she was a passionate advocate of the urban cityscape as a liveable ecosystem, where bricks and mortar and flesh and bone met in perfect harmony. She’s being celebrated in a series of walks in our city (to mark the anniversary of Jacobs’ birth) this week.

Every year 500 cities across the world host ‘Jane’s Walks’ – urban tours to discuss her legacy and for the first time, Liverpool is taking part.

Jane Jacobs was a fierce critic of the damaging urban renewal policies of the 1950s, which were universally supported at the time (although, we think, with a tad more zeal in Liverpool). These included high-rise housing projects which she felt created environments that isolated tenants and became centres of crime, poverty and despair.

The walks, organised by Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) North West Young Planners will be held on the 2nd, 4th and 9th May.

They’re a rare chance for Liverpool’s top urban planners to explain how Jane’s work has influenced, and will continue to influence, Liverpool’s development (and how they play a large part in the city’s new Strategic Investment Framework.) And, with Hope Street recently winning Best Street in the Academy of Urbanism’s awards, the time is right to take a stroll.

“Jane was a radical thinker who championed a new, community-based approach to city planning. Her seminal book ‘The Life and Death of Great American Cities’ is perhaps the most influential book on urban planning and cities ever,” Liverpool Vision’s Matt Biagetti says.

“Her thinking has had a positive impact on cities all over the world, including Liverpool.”

“That’s why Baltic Triangle, Hope Street and Stanley Street Quarters have been selected for Liverpool’s inaugural ‘Jane’s Walks’. They’re exciting and distinctive with an active, engaged community which Jane would have been sure to commend,” Biagetti says.

Well, yes and no. There is much more work to be done, especially around the Baltic – as crime rates increase, and transport links refuse to enter. Jacobs would, no doubt, look at the Baltic and mark the area down with a ‘could try harder’. Also, we see that Cllr Munby is taking part. Jacobs wouldn’t have approved of his noise-war. Instead, she pioneered cities which were interesting, alive, economically sound and diverse. Not silent. Not sterile. Not full of student flats, nor held to ransom by developers. Yes, Hope Street’s got it right, but we still have a long way to go.

“Intricate minglings of different uses in cities are not a form of chaos. On the contrary, they represent a complex and highly developed form of order,” she said.

During the 1960s Jacobs became involved in urban activism, spearheading local efforts to oppose the top-down neighbourhood development in New York City. Her efforts to stop an expressway in Greenwich Village led to her arrest during a demonstration in 1968. Jacobs’ harsh criticism of “slum-clearing” and high-rise housing projects was also instrumental in changing the shape of the city.

Meanwhile, top-down city planning here green lights more student flats. And entire neighbourhoods, such as Marybone, around Tithebarne Street, are earmarked in the SIF to become student ghettoes: in direct opposition to the Jacobs-advocated “mixed-use” philosophy – the integration of different building types and uses; residential, family, commercial, and leisure. A high density melting pot of noise, smell, diversity and vibrant communities.

Oh, and Jacob’s best quote: “New ideas must use old buildings.” We don’t see much of that, either, as Liverpool Waters gets the go ahead.

Yes, it’ll take more than three walks to convince us the city’s turned any brave new corner. But we do think we’re taking the first tentative steps. Which is great.


The other two walks will be led by community campaigner Gerry Proctor MBE, chair of Engage Liverpool and Andi Herring, project officer for Stanley Street Quarter.

Kim Cooper, Jane’s Walk Coordinator for the city, has been instrumental in organising Liverpool’s first Jane’s Walks.

“Liverpool has always been a city of radical thinking and embraces pioneers like Jane Jacobs who challenge convention and are prepared to say; ‘there is a better way’.

“An initiative like Jane’s Walks on the one hand is about heritage and discovery and on the other about generating new ideas for the future and is something in which I’m sure she would have encouraged,” Cooper says.

The tours (tomorrow, 4th and 9th May) are free to attend and open to all. To register your attendance email Kim Cooper at kim_cooper@hotmail.co.uk

More information: http://www.janeswalk.net/index.php/walks/united-kingdom/liverpool/

8 Responses to “Take a Walk on the Urban Side”

  1. HonestJohnMotors

    What evidence do you have for increased crime rates in Baltic?

    ‘noise-war’ – The issues around Noise Abaitment and Static are complex. That was a residential area long before Static opened. Ignoring the complaints actually ignores the community’s opinion which Jacobs would not have advocated.

    ‘(although, we think, with a tad more zeal in Liverpool)’. – Actually Birmingham, Manchester , Glasgow were far worse in terms of mass demolition, Modernist construction etc.

    ‘Meanwhile, top-down city planning here green lights more student flats’ – planners have weak powers and getting weaker, this is a government issue not the Council’s fault. Also, most of the buildings being converted would be empty and rotting otherwise. People can have pseud fantasises about them all being artists studios but there isn’t the demand, this isn’t the Lower East Side. They also create construction jobs which are important for the city in terms of employment and maintaining skills with the weak construction market at the moment.

    “New ideas must use old buildings.” We don’t see much of that, either, as Liverpool Waters gets the go ahead” – well you have contradicted yourself as that’s exactly what is happening with the student flats, for the most part old buildings with new uses. Also, the plans for Liverpool Waters include a large degree of restoration of currently rotting and abandoned structures.

    ” the integration of different building types and uses; residential, family, commercial, and leisure. A high density melting pot of noise, smell, diversity and vibrant communities.” – lovely bit of writing but quite fantastical. Very few places like this really exist what you tend to get is areas in poverty, areas which are being gentrified and the poor people slowly pushed out and then wealthy areas.

    “she pioneered cities which were interesting, alive, economically sound and diverse. Not silent. Not sterile. Not full of student flats, nor held to ransom by developers.” – yes, but did she ever achieve it? No, New York has long been held to ransom by developers, its diverse communities taken over by outsiders and gentrified. Same thing in London and Berlin. Oh and in terms of economically sound, that’s exactly why Liverpool Waters is important, the city isn’t economically sound and needs a huge scale of business development to become sustainable. Do I also need to remind you how important students are to the city’s economy and also the construction sector for quality jobs for ordinary Liverpudlians? I live in the Canning area and Myrtle Street is bustling with new Chinese shops since Vine Court opened.

  2. Evidence from Merseyside Police. We’ve a feature coming up (re Baltic) elsewhere, you raise some interesting points. Cheers.

  3. Do you really think the gold-rush land-grab for student flats is the best use of old buildings? When a huge indoor real food market was turned down? I’m not so sure. Yes, some of them will work (The Bridewell in Cheapside) but some are unsuitable (Hope Street) And do you really think planning are powerless, in light of Joe’s recent tweet:
    Supporters of the Caledonia Pub, City Council will put a stop to plans to turn pub into flats. We want it to remain as a local pub

    No, it appears they can go to the top when it suits. Otherwise, yes, it’s good to see buildings being saved from the rot. But not so good if they’re rotting again in ten years’ time, when the student bubble bursts. As it surely will.

  4. HonestJohnMotors

    Nope, but there is demand and its better than them being empty and rotting. As I always say, what’s your alternative for these structures given the low-demand for property in the city, the static population, limited public funds and relatively stagnant economy? Temporary artistic interventions may be fun but in the long-term they are not a solution either.

    Which foodmarket was that? Sounds interesting. Though a foodmarket of ‘the Broadway’ style would not fit in almost any of the buildings currently being turned into accomodation. The Council recently announced plans for a food hub as part of the Edge Lane wholesale market which could provide the foodie hub ye desire in a sustainable way.

    Planning aren’t powerless but they have less powers than some people seem to think and have little sway when it comes to what private developers want to do with empty buildings they already own. It would be great to save The Caledonia, a thriving business, but it isn’t guranteed, dependent on legal proceedings and doesn’t have much relevance when we are talking about empty rotting buildings. How about giving the Council credit for giving Edge Hill Library to the Liverpool Carnival Company, the Calderstones Mansion to The Reader? Or sorting a deal to save the extremely hard to save Littlewoods Edge Lane building?

    Well the bubble burst on the ‘luxury flats’ didn’t it and everyone banged on about all the empty flats, people saying there was thousands, but, look around town, one or two empty ones here and there in all those blocks, but most have occupiers and those that don’t are often down to the high-turnover of people who rent small flats, a wordwide property phenomenon.

    The student lettings market is undergoing a paradigm shift from the suburbs to the town centre. JMU and L’pool Uni are closing halls there and selling off-land for semis and students no longer tolerate a Smithdown terrace when they can have an en-suite in the city centre. This is especially accelerated by the increasing number of foreign students who demand higher standards. To me the issue around this isn’t what this will do to the city centre, but what it will do to the Smithdown economy. Even if they do end up empty, at least they will have been converted into usable buildings at private expense, then it would be easier to find a grassroots use for them!

  5. David

    Hey, we’re not unduly hard on the council – I hope you agree. We’re largely in favour of the way things are going, and did a very positive piece on the SIF. Can’t say much about the market, but it was a prominent position in town, had consent, until some people with vested interests vetoed it. Would have been amazing. Edge Lane too far out. Don’t, please, get me started on flats. Most are rented, poorly managed and poorly built. Well, a significant percentage. Anyway, thanks for posting. Feedback is why we do it.

  6. Very interesting! Thanks for flagging up Jane Jacobs. I’ve not heard
    of her before but I’m getting very interested in exactly her kind of
    work. It’s all part of urban landscape archaeology which is my ‘thing’!
    Will definitely check out her writing, and would be interested in
    hearing any other follow-up to the walks and thinking around them,
    though I can’t attend personally.

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