Jane's Walk Chicago: Urban Planning Walking Tours of Chicago

• The 48th Ward
• American Institute of Architects
• American Planning Association, IL
• The Br. David Darst Center
• Chinese Mutual Aid Association
• Chinese American Service League
• Loyola University, School of Social Work
• Metropolitan Planning Council
• Northwestern University
• Utrecht University

I’ve built many partnerships to share the history of City Planning and making people from all walks aware of their role in shaping cities today. Get in touch to collaborate!

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What would Jane Jacobs do?

This question underpins my walking tours, which invite Chicagoans to envision our city as a place that is vibrant, healthy, and just. Each covers roughly 2 miles and explores how Chicago’s history of exclusion and failed public policy shapes Chicagoans lives daily – and how to to better. All inspired with the timeless wisdom of none other than Jane Jacobs!

In two years, I’ve designed tours in many neighborhoods, with yet more coming soon!

This hyper-local tour explores the very special history and context of just a few Uptown blocks packed with Asian businesses and delves into the politics and challenges in keeping an ethnic enclave not only alive but useful to the minorities it represents.

Themes: Identity politics, immigration, commodification of culture, politics of place

This walk was designed as part of an annual collaboration with Utrecht University’s Urban Geography program. Centered around Chicago’s border with Oak Park, the walk explores how urban design prevents access to capital and opportunity – and the myriad ways the Austin community has responded to overcome these barriers to give its residents a fair shot at life.

The tour was followed by a walk in Oak Park to contrast under-investment with over-investment.

Themes: urban design, segregation, community empowerment, embeddedness

This tour explores Chicago’s famous “gayborhood” and the role of urban planning in a place where race, gender, class, and privilege intersect with branding as an all-inclusive playground. The walk explores how sexual minorities navigate urban space at a time when gay rights are simultaneously secure and under attack. Plus, it looks at how affordable housing, immigration, education reform, police and gun advocacy, and even parking policy intersect with gay rights. The tour also employs research done in Boystown – on “Performative Progressiveness” – that challenges assumptions about how enclaves support tolerance.

Themes: LGBT history, queerness, the erasure of queer spaces, planning for enclaves.

This walking tour explored the past and speculative future of what was once Chicago’s Black Metropolis, exploring the many layers of history and the many outside forces that have shaped its past and shape Bronzeville still – and the role of urban planning in its decline and disinvestment all along the way.

Themes: segregation, urban renewal, black history, spatial justice, black identity

chinatown walking tourThis walk looked past the colorful architecture, gift shops, and delicious food of Chicago’s most famous and longest-standing ethnic enclave as a place built by and for working class immigrants.

The event explored the social architecture of a place, the invaluable role immigration has played in the planning of Chicago, and the threat of its Chinese-led investment to gentrify Chinatown.

Themes: social exclusion, ethnic enclaves, commodification of culture, age in place

This tour tackled how planning facilitated both the area’s decline and its resurgence. The tour explored how short-sighted thinking in the 1970s is hampering the area today and the role of colleges in supporting the Chicago’s vibrancy. Other topics include:

• The legacy of Redlining & other exclusionary public policies
• How Printers Row helped invent the skyscraper
• Dearborn Park’s history as a planned utopian community
• Ongoing local issues, including having adequate open space and advocating for better schools
• How planning reinforces social exclusion in the built environment

Themes: Redlining, planned communities, social exclusion, urban design

In partnership with Atlas Obscura Illinois, this tour explores Chicago’s bawdy, scandalous past filled with true stories of drama, intrigue, and crime, and  larger-than-life characters from the late-1800s and early-1900s.

In partnership with Atlas Obscura Illinois, this tour explores the history of Urban Planning since the 1909 Burnham Plan of Chicago and how the document continues to shape Chicagoans’ lives. Attendees received an illustrated “Urban Planning 101” zine. Topics include:
• How the 1893 World’s Fair shaped Urban Planning
• Invention of the skyscraper
• How Urban Planning shapes our everyday lives
• Redlining and how the Government segregated America

This walk was designed as part of an annual collaboration with Utrecht University’s Urban Geography program. The walk contrasts Oak Park’s high quality of life against its disinvested neighbor Austin and systemic exclusionary urban design at odds with the city’s stated liberal values.

Themes: urban design, segregation, performative progressiveness, embeddedness

Long before River North was gentrified and turned into an outdoor mall, it was run down, dirty, and industrial. Here, “Towertown” – an artsy, bohemian community – briefly flourished. It was Chicago’s original “gayborhood” – long before gay rights were even feasible.

This walk uncovers River North’s gritty queer history and contrasts it against current development as an ultra-luxury, family-friendly shopping mecca.

Themes: queer history, gay chicago, urban renewal, restrictive covenants

Developed for Loyola’s Social Justice Summit, this tour explored the legacy of redlining, how the built environment has been planned to separate, and strategies that Chicagoans can apply in undoing the city’s pervasive segregation.

Today, the South Loop is a destination in of itself – with the Museum Campus,  Columbia College, thousands of newly-built homes, and a booming skyline.

This walk charts the area’s dizzying development with someone who saw some of the changes first-hand and contrasts one family’s narrative against city-wide forces that reshaped their community – and the urban planning decisions that made it all possible.

Uptown was the subject of my Master’s Project research and is a place I continue to study. This tour explores Uptown’s multilayered history from the glitz of the Jazz Age to the grime of Urban Renewal and its current hyper-gentrification. Topics include:

• Chicago’s Housing Crisis and the importance of affordable housing
• Inter-racial community activism as a response to Urban Renewal
• Immigrants’ and refugees’ role in revitalizing Uptown

I continue working to expand my roster of walks and am currently exploring walking tours in:

• Logan Square
• Lincoln Park
• East Garfield Park
• North Lawndale

Contact me if you’d like to partner on a walk in your neighborhood!

Jane's Walk 2019

For the 2019 season, I partnered with APA-IL and Blackspace Chicago for a series of 12 walks across six neighborhoods. I secured collaborators for each neighborhood and wrote and illustrated “The New ABCs of Jane Jacobs” zine.

Boystown: Steve Migalski, PsyD
Bronzeville: Ladipo Famodu
Chinatown: Debbie Liu
River North: Andie Meadows
South Loop: Katanya Raby
Uptown: Camille Applewhite

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