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"You can neither lie to a neighborhood park, nor reason with it," Jane Jacobs wrote in 1961 in The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Unlike lots of planners then and now, she never pushed open space as an antidote to city crime and dullness, asking "More Open Space for what? For muggings? For bleak vacuums between buildings?"
To her mind great parks--my hometown's Rittenhouse Square and the Prado in Boston's North End get props--are rare birds among sprawling failures, boring at best like Grant Park, or dangerous like Philly's awful Fairmount Park.
I think she would have liked AMA Plaza, a pretty little spot under the American Medical Association building, across from the Reader's offices on Illinois. Ringed by businesses that get too much of my money, it's surprisingly charming for a corporate-owned park, and never empty. It's not full of trash or drunk guys either, and it fulfills Jacobs's good-parks criteria: sunny and small, drawing different kinds of people, and far from other parks.
Too bad it's probably fallen prey to developer John Buck, who filed plans in March for a 40-story boutique hotel and condo tower. Buck's already littered River North with boring beige boxes . Oh well, maybe we'll be out of here before the bulldozers show up.