I grew up in the woods outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and loved when we would take the light rail into Cleveland to go shopping at the old Higbee’s department store (featured in the movie, “A Christmas Story.”). I remember my parents buying those red, bumpy, French brunt peanuts at the nut vendor as we arrived in the station. The city and the billings always drew out my interest and curiosity of city life.
In high school, I spent a semester in Segovia, Spain, living with a family and attending classes to learn the language, arts and culture of Spain. This was a transformative adventure, and exploring the ancient cathedrals and churches opened up my appreciation for architecture. The narrow, curvilinear streets and plazas full of native Spaniards fed my interest in vibrant city places.
When I returned, I drew a picture: series of concentric red circles, which now remind me of a Target logo, but were meant to represent economic zones in a city – to show the difference between the “maturity” of European cities (dense populated and vibrant on the interior circles, poorer and less organized outskirts) to U.S. cities (populated and economically strong in the suburbs, poor and disheveled in the inner city – remember, I grew up in Cleveland in the 1980’s). I put the drawing in a shoe box of memories of Spain and then went to school for biology.
It wasn’t until I was tired of working as a food chemist in Madison Wisconsin that I discovered the profession of Urban Planning, and remembered the red circle drawing I did in high school. This began an awakening in me that Urban Planning was the profession I was always attempting to get to. I needed to learn a lot about the world before I got there, and after, but it seems the purpose of my life continues to be pushed towards this end.
Long story short, I enrolled and eventually graduated with a Masters in Urban an regional planning from URPL at UW – Wisconsin. It is my vision that we can build and live in compact, economically viable and culturally rich cites that are clean, and leave nature space to stay healthy. Our future is dependent on building cities in this fashion.