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Monday, March 9, 2009

Will you take a Jane's Walk through St. Louis?

WHEN: May 2-3, 2009
WHAT: (See below)

What's a Jane's Walk?

Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighborhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves.

Jane’s Walk honors the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership. Jane's Walk raises urban literacy by combining the simple act of walking with personal observations, urban history, planning, design and civic engagement. They help knit people together into a strong, connected and resourceful community.

Several cities across the country are scheduled to participate this year: Boston, Chicago, New York, Ogden, Salt Lake City, Washington D.C., Anchorage, and, yes, New Orleans (which I'm thrilled to say I've been asked to help out in).

The idea is that local residents would lead a tour of their own neighborhoods on foot to showcase one or more of many things: quality of life issues faced by the neighborhood and how they could be improved; architecture, history, and heritage; a vibrant business district; sites of cultural import; spots that have inspired civic action (think, for instance, the San Luis!).

The ultimate goal is to get people to discuss the potential of urban neighborhoods (examining both their assets and their shortcomings) while observing the neighborhoods through the best vehicle of all: your two feet (or wheelchair wheels, for some). Walking through the neighborhoods instead of driving or biking is more intimate, allows people to dwell on sites that interest them, and, of course, allows for the discovery of hidden, fine-grained urbanism that Ms. Jacobs so enjoyed!

If anyone would like to organize this event in St. Louis, I would love to help out in any long-distance way I can! I'll help write brochures and help plot the routes.

Here is just one example:

Old Frenchtown St. Louis: This tour would allow the observer to walk through some of St. Louis's best urban neighborhoods and some of its worst urban planning blunders, and everything in between. The tour could start at the corner of Missouri and Park in Lafayette Square, showcasing the Victorian splendor of the Painted Ladies along the park (and discuss that the neighborhood nearly fell victim to an urban renewal project--Lafayette Park itself almost became a truck stop. No lie!). It could continue down Park through the business district and talk about recent revitalization. Historic preservation could be a big focus here. Discussions could take place on how to appropriately design new construction/infill for well-established, high-integrity historic districts.

Keep walking east on Park through the new King Louis Square development. Talk about the ravaging of the near South Side (Frenchtown) for mid rise public housing projects in the modern era (Darst Webbe, chiefly). Speak about the planning process for the new development and whether or not it's a fitting replacement. Proceed east along Park until you arrive at South 9th. Walk the tree-shaded blocks of the LaSalle Park neighborhood before circling back via the pedestrian pathway on 10th Street. This would be an appopriate time to talk about the Purina complex and urban renewal efforts in LaSalle Park.

Keep south on 10th until the pedestrian bridge over I-55. Discuss the interstate's effect on Frenchtown.

Cross the pedestrian bridge (it's still open, right?) and end up on Ninth Street in Soulard. Walk south to (and through) the Soulard Market. From here, it's kind of open--many Soulard blocks would be worth a walk to show off old Frenchtown. The tour should eventually make its way back to Lafayette Street and proceed west towards Tucker. The last leg before returning to Lafayette Park (this time, walk through the park!) would be Bohemian Hill. Discuss the controversy of this 21st century renewal project and examine the remaining buildings.

There you have it? What do you think?

I'd love to help develop brochures for these "walks". Another walk possibility, in conjunction with Landmarks Association's Architecture St. Louis exhibit, would be Lewis Place, which would be a much shorter walk but no less interesting.

Old North St. Louis and Cherokee Street walks seem inevitable, too. Again, contact me and I will begin writing/planning!

For more information, please visit the website and let me know ASAP if you're interested!


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