Watch Out, Worcester – Jane Jacobs has Arrived

By Madison Friend

Look out, Worcester – Jane Jacobs has arrived, and this city probably won’t ever be the same.

“Jane Week,” a festival running from May 1-7 in Worcester, is a celebration of the city as well as the life of urban theorist Jane Jacobs.

Per the official brochure, “Jane Week gives Worcester residents and visitors a chance to connect to each other, explore Worcester by foot and participate in interesting discussions on how we can enhance the design and function of our city.”

Jane Week will consist of volunteer-led walking tours around the city, a pop-up parklet, and other discussion forums at venues like the Worcester Public Library, where Dr. Thomas Conroy, Chair of WSU’s Urban Studies Department, will host a film screening and forum about Worcester’s past attempts at  urban renewal.

Jane Week is the culmination of a yearlong experiment in community development called Jane Jacobs in the Woo. Part blog, part community-based urban studies seminar, part community-building opportunity, it’s a one-woman operation that’s evolved into a growing movement dedicated to making Worcester a more walkable, “livable” city. It’s the brainchild of community activist Joyce Mandell, who launched the blog in May 2016 to celebrate what would have been Jane Jacobs’ 100th birthday.

Jacobs championed ideas like mixed-use developments, high-density neighborhoods, and walkability. Concepts like those, that made the metropolis-loving-post-World-War-II city planners Jacobs criticized cringe and scoff, now comprise the common-sense basics of city planning. It’s all predicated on the idea that physically participating in your community will make you a “better” member of it, more involved and invested in its maintenance and development.

Mandell believes Worcester has the potential to be a truly great city, but only if its people work together to affect the change they want to see . And it has to be the people, not corporations or investment firms that have the money to fund development, but don’t always know what that development should look like.

Of her commitment to improving life in Worcester, Mandell says, “I needed to love where I lived. I needed to devote and commit my energy to Worcester, since this is where I belong, this is where I’m living.”

Participating in Jane Week gives us all a chance to do just that.

Find the full brochure here.

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