Celebrate Jane Jacobs with 2 neighborhood walks

If you know who Jane Jacobs was and understand the role her work has played in revolutionizing thinking about cities and planning since the 1960s, you’ll understand why her birthday is a time to encourage city-dwellers to get to know their own places a little better.

For example, she wrote that new ideas must use old buildings. She didn’t mean historic landmarks or preciously rehabbed old buildings. She meant old, cheap space. “Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction,” she wrote, in The Death and Life of Great American Cities. “But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops go into older buildings.”

Which brings us to Charlotte. On Saturday, May 4, PlanCharlotte.org is sponsoring two Jane Jacobs Walks – part of a global movement to get people out walking a city neighborhood and noticing what it offers, the way urbanist writer and activist Jacobs would have encouraged.

New for this year: We’re sponsoring two walks, in two different parts of the city. The walks are part of a movement around the globe to celebrate on the weekend of Jacobs’ birth.

1. Like last year’s Jane Jacobs Walk (read about it here, and here), one will be a munching tour of East Charlotte, led by historian Tom Hanchett of Levine Museum of the New South.

2. The new, additional Jane Jacobs Walk will focus on South End – its history, redevelopment and urban design successes and challenges. That one will be led by UNC Charlotte Professor David Walters who directs the university’s Master’s in Urban Design program.

Details on Walk No. 1: Saturday May 4, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Hanchett, on his “Munching Tour,” will encourage participants to look at the immigrant-run restaurants and stores in East Charlotte as embodying some of the elemental principles of Jane Jacobs’ writing about cities – how they absorb newcomers and allow for entrepreneurial businesses, even if the setting is not necessarily affluent or glossy.

We’ll sample foods at several restaurants as we walk.

RSVP: Email mnewsom@charlotte.edu. The maximum number of participants for Hanchett’s walk is 18. Bring cash for purchasing food samples, and wear comfortable shoes. We’ll let you know beforehand where the exact gathering spot will be. (See update below.)

Update, April 24: This walk is now full, although we are taking names for a waiting list. We will meet in front to O’Reilly Auto Parts, 3121 N. Sharon Amity (Just off Albemarle Road). Please park in the middle of the lot, leaving the spaces next to the store for their customers.

Details on Walk No. 2: Saturday May 4, 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m.

On the South End tour, Walters will discuss Jane Jacobs’ principles for lively city neighborhoods, and point to ways South End exemplifies them in some cases and lacks them in other cases.

We’ll look at developments along and near the Lynx Blue Line. The walk will begin at Atherton Market beside the Lynx tracks and end at a neighborhood pub, Big Ben, at Atherton Mill next to Atherton Market, 2104 South Blvd.

RSVP: Email mnewsom@charlotte.edu. There is no maximum number of participants but please register so we’ll have an idea of how many people to expect. Wear comfortable shoes.

In case of rain, we’ll still be walking. Bring umbrellas.