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Monday, March 30, 2009

Jane's Walks Coming to St. Louis (, I met Roberta Gratz!)

In just a short month (May 2-3), a handful of the nation's neighborhoods will be taking their feet and eyes to the street in honor of late urbanist Jane Jacobs. The event is called a Jane's Walk; it's a free neighborhood walking tour whose emphasis is on bringing neighborhood residents together to intimately observe the fine-grained facets of their 'hoods.

I am happy to say--with a note that this is preliminary--that St. Louis will be among the cities to participate. So far, the Soulard, Southwest Garden, St. Louis Place, Tower Grove East, and Tower Grove South neighborhoods have expressed interest and may be holding walks. They're all currently in the planning phase.

Who is responsible for this wonderful idea? The Center for the Living City, founded by Roberta Brandes Gratz, a famous preservationist and author of the work "The Living City: How America's cities are being revitalized by thinking small in a big way".

From Miscellaneous Items

(Google Books capture)

I had the pleasure of meeting her in New Orleans at a speech she gave to a preservation class at the University of New Orleans. Her speech was more of an open Q&A session in which students inquired into her interest in New Orleans and asked her opinions regarding sustainable and organic recovery. She should know; she's writing a book on New Orleans' revival post-Katrina, examining the ways in which the city's unparalleled civic culture has not only survived but thrived in the wake of devastation.

I mentioned to her that I was from St. Louis and was very passionate about it; in fact, that morning, I had just posted on the results of the Preservation Board meeting re: 4608 Washington. She seemed distressed that St. Louis would sacrifice more of its architectural heritage, mentioning that her visits to downtown St. Louis have left her frustrated at the disconnectedness and piecemeal feeling to that portion of the city.

Determined not to leave her completely down on St. Louis, we spoke after the class on the revival St. Louis has undergone and the vibrancy that exists despite all of the surgery to the built environment. I forwarded her some photos of St. Louis (again, thanks JiveCitySTL!) along with an old streetcar map of the city (she said she collected these nationwide). She seemed intrigued by the photographs and is very happy to hear that a Jane's Walk or two will likely hit the sidewalks of St. Louis in May.

If you'd like to be a part of any Jane's Walk in St. Louis (whether a walk in one of the neighborhoods mentioned above or a different one), please contact me at and I'll help point you in the right direction.


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