Martha Frish

Talking, thinking and writing about cities are among my favorite things.

I have always been passionate about large cities, and the inter-relationship between the built environment, neighborhoods and the lives of those who grow up in them. Among other things, the quality of the built environment affects community bonds, student self-esteem and the economic opportunities available to residents. The public sector, the private sector and nonprofits all have a role to play in improving economic opportunities, and I’ve worked in all three.  

I live that inter-relationship: I grew up in Long Island City with an unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline… and I’ve been an Instructor in Historic Preservation at the School of the Art Institute since 2000, and have taught classes on Daniel Burnham and the development of Chicago at DePaul University.  

I’ve been a Senior Program Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and worked as a real estate development consultant in New York and Chicago. I have extensive nonprofit experience in strategic planning, fostering new partnerships, grant-writing, advocacy, market analysis and financial analysis.

My passion is teaching about the importance of the evolution of cities (especially Chicago and New York), focusing on the appreciation of the importance and distinctiveness of neighborhoods, and on their aesthetic, artistic, architectural and urban design characteristics.  

I initiated Jane’s WalkCHICAGO for Friends of Downtown in 2013, and I served as the City Organizer for Chicago until 2017.  Since then, I’ve been lead author of “Heritage as an Element of the Scenescape,” a contribution to Oxford Handbook of Public Heritage Theory and Method (Summer 2018) and am now working on a book about the importance and distinctiveness of urban neighborhoods.

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