Suzanne Lennard’s legacy, and the “International Making Cities Livable” conferences, will continue

Home page for the conference website to be held in Carmel, Indiana in June 2020.

Friends and colleagues of Suzanne Lennard, director of the acclaimed conference series International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) based in Portland, are celebrating her life and legacy following her death last month.  (Suzanne was also co-author of this blog.)

Before she died, Suzanne made plans for the 2020 conference to be held in Carmel, Indiana.  That conference will continue, and will include a celebration of her life and legacy.  In fact, it will be an occasion to celebrate the new “Suzanne C. and Henry L. Lennard Institute for Livable Cities,” which will continue to operate the conferences. This author (Michael Mehaffy) will serve as the new director, at Suzanne’s request before her passing.

Suzanne’s lifelong passion was to promote livable, equitable and sustainable cities and towns for ALL, and to share the lessons of what works and doesn’t work in reaching that goal.  One of the biggest obstacles is the phenomenon of sprawl — the growth of fragmented, segregated, car-dependent suburbs that work passably well for the wealthy,  but much less effectively for the poor, for the elderly, for the infirm, for migrants, for caregivers and stay-at-home parents — in short, for far too many people.  Thats why the theme of the 2020 conference will be “From Sprawl to Neighborhoods: Livable Cities (and Suburbs) For ALL.”

As a venue for this topic, the conference will be located in the ideal town of Carmel, Indiana, which, as the conference website says, offers

…a fascinating case study of a remarkable transformation from a sprawling bedroom suburb of Indianapolis into a thriving, livable community. We’ll share concrete examples of what has worked in this and other suburbs, where such a high percentage of the population now lives – either by choice, or too often because they have been unwillingly displaced from gentrifying city cores. We’ll examine tools and strategies that are effective in building a new generation of walkable, equitable, livable cities – AND suburbs – for all.

 This and other examples remind us that most people in the United States live in suburbs, as do increasing numbers of people in other countries.  It is not enough to densify the cores of cities – which often causes profound rebound effects, as we have discussed before – but it is necessary to create many good places to live, within so-called “polycentric” regions, consisting of a range of neighborhood types and densities.  (The Portland region is supposed to be planned that way as well – a point that many people seem to forget.)

As Jane Jacobs reminded us, diversity is an essential attribute of great cities — and geographic diversity must be part of the mix.