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Jacky Grimshaw

This nomination recognizes how Jacky Grimshaw has helped new urbanism’s influence grow… and how far we have to go.


In the 1980s, New Urbanism was more of a reaction to sprawl than it was a coherent platform for problem-solving. Back then, Jacky Grimshaw worked as Mayor Washington’s policy advisor; dedicating herself to the tough job of replacing failed top-down, urban policies so we could remake neighborhoods and reverse their disinvestment. 


Undeterred by difficulty, Jacky in 1992 continued that reformulation by joining the then-fledgling Center for Neighborhood Technology. Resulting from dozens of projects she helped engineer at CNT, a new policy paradigm could emerge: more decentralized, more bottom-up innovation for rebuilding communities compactly. An early prototype was the plan to save the Oak Park branch of the Green Line and regenerate neighborhoods around its remaining stations.


During that last decade of the old century, well-intentioned concepts such as Transit Oriented Development started gaining bricks and mortar. Barriers to mixed use and mixed income communities are dissolving. In more and more places today, new codes can replicate urbanism and prove its potential widely. Key to this growth, Jacky helped promote the discovery that multiple benefits come from strategic details; often as small as changing the regulation of parking that, in turn, stimulates new mobility modes and reduces housing costs. Detailing these synergies have helped urbanists turn the corner. Daily, we now learn how one change leads to another. Jacky’s fingerprints are on many of CNT’s innovations and achievements; making it one of the nation’s most respected “do-tanks” in a comprehensive sustainable paradigm.


Putting boots on the ground, Jacky also organized Transit Future; the only campaign to come close in this Century to winning a new revenue stream for Cook County transit innovations.


Today as we look back to the 1980s, we see how Jacky Grimshaw was decades ahead of those times. By sharpening the argument for transit as a tool to protect the environment and create upward lift for families, we can see today how other social problems have a better chance to be solved. But to America’s misfortune, Jacky is still too far ahead of our times.


Visionary and yet a practical doer, her many years on the Chicago Transit Board prove that both principle and patience are assets in getting institutions to change. Jacky’s work reminds them that they are stewards for all citizens and that budget crises are no excuse for expediency.


While she served long on CNU’s National Board, CNU specifically owes much to Jacky’s work on the Executive Committee for hosting the 2006 Congress here in Chicago. It remains the standard for which, in our objective opinion, Congresses since have been judged.


With the foresight and persistence of leaders like Jacky, we are making progress. Over the four decades plus of her career, urbanism’s economic and social benefits are better understood, applied and proven. From her, we have learned how to continue changing the paradigm by knowing which incremental steps — and which pivotal fights — make a difference.


While CNU prides itself as a strategic forum for urbanism’s thought leaders, Jacky’s career also stands as an exemplar for getting change done. This nomination is made knowing the progress urbanists have made still pales next to the progress we must continue to make. In the interim…



Nomination submitted by Robert Munson

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