Riverside in the Urban Millennium – The Need for the Next Civic Spirit

On March 23, the Olmsted Society co-hosted the lecture “Riverside in the Urban
Millennium – The Need for the Next Civic Spirit” which was presented by board member Tom Jacobs at Riverside Township Hall. The lecture explored the question of what we ought to be doing today, in the broadest sense, if we are serious about being stewards for Riverside.

As beneficiaries of Frederick Law Olmsted’s plan, which is the physical embodiment of his vision of civic spirit, Tom posited that we need to build upon this civic spirit. The lecture attempted to spur public discourse about the “what” and “how” relating to Riverside’s future, and to bring together as many residents, civic groups, business owners, and
elected officials as possible.

A large and diverse audience attended, including several Village of Riverside trustees, school board members, a school superintendent, and Library board members.

In its conclusion, the lecture outlined four elements as the essence for a 21st century vision for our community: celebrating our unique sense of place by building up cultural and eco tourism, becoming a model for equitable performance excellence for all by advocating for public school reform, increasing governance efficiency by collaborating across political and district lines, and by leveraging our world-class public transportation set-up by investing in no-carbon emissions modes of local transportation.

The Lecture

In 2007, for the first time in history according to the UN State of the World Population report, an equal number of people worldwide were living in cities as in the country. Referred to as the arrival of the “Urban Millennium”, this trend anticipates that urban populations will outgrow rural settlements by a margin of 70% to 30% by the year 2050.

Riverside in the Urban Millennium – The Need for the Next Civic Spirit develops historical context by tracing the remarkable success story of the city as the predominant form of human cohabitation by taking the audience on a journey through time. From the birth of the city in the prehistoric past to the present day, the lecture highlights key developmental milestones of urban planning and development, and how they have been underpinned by scientific and industrial progress.

In looking towards a healthy yet prosperous future for our region, the lecture illustrates both the GOTO 2040 Plan by the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency CMAP, a comprehensive Chicagoland regional plan, and the Next Economy set of urban policy recommendations by the Brookings Institution. Both of these visions offer compelling ideas as to how our metro region can leverage its economic potential while doing it in a low-carbon, more environmentally sustainable way.

On the local level, Riverside in the Urban Millennium – The Need for the Next Civic Spirit attempts to formulate the beginning of a 21st century vision for our community built upon greater collaboration between all stakeholders.

The Lecturer: Thomas Jacobs

Tom Jacobs is a principal with Krueck&Sexton Architects in Chicago and an Associate Professor at IIT College of Architecture and the School of Urban Design at University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. He is the founder of the Riverside Sustainability Council, and a board member of the Frederick Law Olmsted Society of Riverside.