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Reason: What kind of traditional towns?
Jacobs: You can see it in old Irish towns. You can also see it in towns in Illinois. The reason for it is that the action so often was where three well-traveled routes came together and made a Y. There are also T-intersections and also X-intersections. But they're always intersections that are well-traveled on foot. People speak about the local hangout, the corner bar. The important word there is corner.
Reason: Corner store, corner bar. They're illegal in most places today -- certainly in the suburbs.
Jacobs: Yes. The corner is important. It's of all different scales. For instance, big cities have a lot of main squares where the action is, and which will be the most valuable for stores and that kind of thing. They're often good places for a public building -- a landmark. But they're always where there's a crossing or a convergence. You can't stop a hub from developing in such a place. You can't make it develop if you don't have such a place. And I don't think the New Urbanists understand this kind of thing. They think you just put it where you want.
Reason: And that people will go there, as opposed to what's really happening -- that people are already going there? You're just giving them a place to stop and congregate?
Jacobs: That's right. It occurs naturally. Now it also has the advantage that it can expand or contract without destroying the rest of the place. Because the natural place for such a heart to expand is along those well-used thoroughfares.
Reason: What do the people who run cities have to do now to make their cities into more livable, more interesting places? Is it to remove some of the things they've done in the last 50 years, or just keep their hands off completely?
Jacobs: It's much less a matter of removing things than adding things, I think. For instance, here in Toronto there were two areas of the downtown that were dying. They were in very good locations but they were old industrial buildings that were becoming vacant. Manufacturing was moving out to where they had more room and where it wasn't as expensive. There were a lot of small developers who saw that these nice old buildings were just ideal for converting into apartments. They were lofts, mostly, and you know how popular they've become. But they were blocked from doing anything about it because of use zoning that said it should be industrial. So you can change that use zoning and allow residential.
Reason: But aren't you then just removing an impediment? Some people say zoning is the big problem.
Jacobs: Wait a minute, I haven't finished. It didn't help to change that use because, again, there were so many impediments that went with it. There were rules and regulations about dwellings -- especially parking places. And the ground coverage in these areas was high, and you couldn't make basements under these nice old buildings. You couldn't satisfy the parking requirements without fairly well destroying what was really nice about the areas and also making it just too expensive. So no matter what happened, they were blocked.
We had a very intelligent mayor at that time, and she listened to what they were saying. And she wanted to remove those impediments. She talked to everybody who had an interest in the area and they agreed that these buildings should be put to the additional use. But they were all so stymied in their thinking about, How do you make it practical?
Well, you're smart. You've already jumped to the conclusion of what makes it practical -- you remove the impediments. The mayor's hardest job was re-educating the planning department, but she did it. They added one new rule, and you might not like this. But it was a very important rule to add: None of the sound old buildings could be destroyed. That was to prevent environmental and aesthetic waste. Otherwise, except for the safety and fire codes, which apply to all the buildings, just about all the old regulations were removed.
Reason: And what happened?
Jacobs: It's magical, it's wondrous, how fast those areas have been blossoming and coming to life again.
It wasn't just removing impediments. It was a use that was missing in the mixture. It didn't replace all the working places. A lot of the working places hadn't disappeared yet, and new ones have come in and been allowed to be added. Also, there are other things that the people who now live there, in combination with the people who work there, can support. The main thing missing in the mixture was added. The same principle you can apply to languishing bedroom communities. What's missing there is workplaces. Here's why I don't like segregation into night things and day things: You don't get the additional things that the workers and the people living there support jointly.