“Observe Scranton” Celebrates Activist Jane Jacobs

Marywood University and The Center for The Living City are sponsoring, Observe Scranton, a weeklong program of events honoring renowned architect Jane Butzner Jacobs, a native of Dunmore, from May 4-8. 

The community festival celebrates Scranton through the eyes of Jane Jacobs, an iconic city activist, on what would be her 105th birthday. 

Free community exhibits located throughout the city, in collaboration with the Lackawanna County Library, Marywood University, the City of Scranton, other local colleges and universities, and many private community-minded developers, organizations, and businesses.

 The celebration kicked off Tuesday with Jane Jacobs Day & Flag Raising at Scranton City Hall,with Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., president of Marywood University, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, and the Center for the Living City for the inaugural Jane Jacobs Day Proclamation, a day of community conversations and gatherings.

A book launch was held in the theater at Lackawanna College with author Glenna Lang giving a slide presentation to celebrate the publication of her book, Jane Jacob’s First City: Learning from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Today (May 5), the Jane Jacobs Walk will take place at Forest Hill Cemetery, 1830 Jefferson Ave., Dunmore, at 2 p.m. Join the cemetery’s caretaker and archivist, Norma Reese, for a fascinating tour of Scranton’s first landscaped cemetery, founded in 1870. 

Later today, the architecture and history of Lackawanna Avenue will be explored during the Jane Jacobs Walk, at 5:15 p.m., at The Marketplace at Steamtown. Architect and local historian, Richard Leonori, will lead a several block walk along Scranton’s main downtown street, laid out as part of the original plan for the city in the 1850s.

A book signing at Library Express Bookstore at the Steamtown Mall will follow at 6:15 p.m., with author Glenna Lang, who will read passages from Jane Jacob’s First City

“A Community Conversation: A Scranton City Dialogue” will take place from 6 – 7:30 p.m., via Zoom. Those interested can register at surveymonkey.com/r/ObserveScranton. An inspired community conversation focusing on questions and themes Jane Jacobs raised in a seminal 1987 letter to the city about “what Scranton is, has been, and can be.” This event is hosted by The University of Scranton and city partners. 

 On Thursday, May, 6, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. a virtual event, “Blue Zone + the Built Environment”, will be provided. Those interested can register by emailing Margaret.Brown@sharecare.com with the session the participants plan to attend including: 

–  10 – 11:15 a.m., Built Environment – Government. Discussions targeted to government and planning leaders for public works, economic development, walking and bike infrastructure, public safety, and more.

-11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.: Built Environment – Policy Advocates: Discussion targeted to walk and bike advocates, neighborhood associations, chamber of commerce reps, and more.

– 1 – 2 p.m.: Blue Zones for Elected Officials: Discussions targeted to mayors, city councils, county commissioners, and state and federal representatives, as well as the public.

● A book reading with Glenna Lang and community members will take place at 5:30 pm., at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, across from the iconic Electric City sign. Accompanied by special guests, author Glenn Lang will provide an outdoor book reading of Jane Jacob’s First City, followed by an audience Q&A and book signing.

On May 7, First Friday Scranton will feature a wide variety of cultural events found in some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes, as well as galleries, boutiques, and other small businesses from 5 to 9 p.m..

There will be an  Interactive Exhibit, from 5 -7 p.m., at the Observe Scranton headquarters, 546 Spruce St., in the Scranton Life Building. During the First Friday event, attendees are encouraged to share their thoughts about the past, present, and future of Scranton.

 The Inaugural Community Night Light Ride will take place at 8:30 p.m., with registration at 7:30 p.m. Those interested will meet at the corner of Adams Avenue and Spruce Street. A fun evening bicycle ride through the city of Scranton will take place. Attendees are encouraged to decorate their bicycles with lights. Registration can also be made prior to the event, at northeastartproject.com/lightthenighride.

On Saturday, May 8,  a Jane Jacobs Walk will take place from 10 – 11 a.m., at 1712 Monroe Ave., Dunmore, the childhood home of Jane Jacobs. Architect and longtime Dunmorean, John Cowder, will retrace Jane’s routes to her neighborhood school, the potato chip factory in the alley, and other mom-and-pop stores she and her family and friends frequented.

That evening, Scranton StorySlam with Scranton Fringe will take place at the Scranton Cultural Center, at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Scranton StorySlam is a celebration of diverse voices, welcoming all to share their stories of triumph, disappointment, humor, and heartbreak with supportive audiences. Featured storytellers include Amber Viola, Chris Kelly, Glynis M. Johns, Gerard Hetman, Laureen M. O’Handley, Terry Thompson, and Jessica Rothchild, Ph.D., as well as many others.

For additional information about Observe Scranton, visit observescranton.org/schedule.

Dunmorean of the Month: Maria MacDonald

Maria MacDonald 1By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore’s Maria Pane MacDonald, program director for interior architecture at Marywood University School of Architecture, was named executive director of the national nonprofit, Center for the Living City.

The Center for the Living City was founded 15 years ago by friends of urban journalist and community activist Jane Jacobs who grew up in Dunmore.

Daughter of Michaelene and the late Francis Pane, MacDonald is a lifelong Dunmore resident and very proud of her roots in the borough.

“I see a lot of great architecture in Dunmore,” she said. “We have some great buildings and homes. But it is the community of Dunmore and the people in it who stand apart. All of the great things that are said about Dunmore and its citizens are true. This a borough I grew up in and never left.” 

MacDonald, who grew up in the same block in Dunmore as Jacobs, will become only the second director for the Center for the Living City organization. 

She replaces the center’s founding executive director, Stephen Goldsmith, who is stepping aside to focus his time on advancing the Center’s global Observation and Action Network. Goldsmith will remain on the center’s board of directors.

MacDonald is the founder of the Marywood University School of Architecture.

She continues to work as a practicing architect and specializes in adaptive reuse, preservation and restoration projects.

The Center for the Living City is a United States based nonprofit launched in 2005 by a group of activists, practitioners and teachers. It holds the distinction of being the only urbanist organization founded in collaboration with Jacobs.

The center’s governing board selected MacDonald from a strong field of more than 70 applicants.

Well versed and thought provoking, MacDonald received bachelor of arts degrees in both architecture and interior architecture from the University of Rhode Island School of Design, where she received the Excellence in Design award for her work on the “Reclamation of Forgotten Spaces.”

She utilizes a holistic, integrative design approach that aims to strengthen the relationships between the allied design disciplines and people and and the environments in which they live.

“I am thrilled to have been selected to work with the center’s board and staff to advance the mission,” MacDonald said. “This is an exciting time for Dunmore and Scranton and all of the universites and nonprofits.” 

MacDonald throughout her career has been team leader for many significant community projects. As an educator, her intense focus is on service and community outreach, providing community-based, experiential learning opportunities for her students and the people in the communities where they work.

She served for the past 15 years as Interior Architecture Program Director at Marywood University. She steered the program successfully through two full NASAD accreditations. 

“I am very proud to be a Dunmorean,” she said. “Jane Jacobs grew up on Monroe Avenue in Dunmore and I grew up and still live on Clay Avenue in Dunmore. She is an internationally known Urbanist and I am grateful to follow in her legacy.”

MacDonald has two sons. Her older son Neil MacDonald, 26, is a chemical engineer. Her younger son Ethan, 21, is a senior aerospace engineering major at the University of Maryland. Both are Scranton Prep graduates.

Her mom is a lifelong and proud Dunmore native. Her late dad died when she was young.

“We have a lot of great buildings in Dunmore,” MacDonald said. “that we can renovate and live in.

“We are now recognized both locally and on the international level. I think that is pretty great. We should be proud to maintain our identity. I am very proud to be a part of the Dunmore community my entire life.

“It is not a myth that we all know each other and you look out for your neighbors in Dunmore. We in Dunmore give back. There is a reason I never left Dunmore.”

The Marywood University School of Architecture is accredited with over 350 current enrolled students, MacDonald said.

MacDonald is a 1985 graduate of Dunmore High School.