Mike Geisler: Musings on Great American Cities


Mike Geisler

As I return from the ICSC Conference in New York, I look out the window of the plane at the density that is New York City. It is an amazing and awesome place.

During the last 20 years, I have seen this city change in so many ways. It is impressive to see how the city works, and in many ways it has never been better. From my viewpoint, New York looks like it is well run.

I can remember in the late ’70s and early ’80s, New York City was a dirty place and did not feel safe. I can remember reading about the blight, with decaying and abandoned buildings. It seemed broken.

Today, New York appears so vibrant. There seems to be a renaissance in many of the neighborhoods and boroughs.

I have been reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. This book was written in 1961. Jacobs discusses the errors of city planning in turning neighborhoods inward instead of having them connect with the street.

She writes about the needs of the community and how the community deals with its challenges. Today, we see with many of the social experiments in housing projects, the planners got it wrong. Many of the large, vertical housing projects, like Cabrini Green in Chicago, looked pretty and symmetrical from a bird’s eye view, but the common area spaces were typically unused and often dangerous. Jacobs argues that the street is what brought people together as a neighborhood.

Fifty years later, I wonder what she would say about New York and other big cities. What about Dallas-Fort Worth: Are we getting it right yet?

Mike Geisler is co-founder of Venture Commercial Real Estate, one of the leading retail brokerage services firms Texas. Contact him at [email protected]