Throughout the first weekend of May, it is a time to celebrate Jane Jacobs, an inspirational leader among urban thinkers. It is celebrated through an event called Jane’s Walk. These urban walks are locally led walks giving residents the opportunity to explore their own communities and connect with other residents. Jacobs felt that a community-based approach was the foundation of city building. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities remains as relevant today as it did when it was first published in 1961.
Since its inception in Toronto in 2007, Jane’s Walk has spread to thousands of participants walking in neighborhoods and cities around the world.
A friend and I decided to go on the “spaces between buildings” walk, which took place on Sunday, May 4, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our small group of nine was fortunate to have two urban professors leading the way. I’ve lived in this community for over 30 years, so I wasn’t sure that I was going to discover anything new. But I did – small walkways and alleys tucked between and behind buildings, a painted garage; inspiring graffiti; and a long decorative sidewalk between a student high rise and the back of a church yard, that guided one along like the yellow brick road. They were great examples of negotiating that fine line between public and private space. Every community has empty areas can easily be activated. Engaging the community on how to redine those spaces, is what is so powerful.
If your community would like to host a Jane’s Walk, it’s easy to organize. Click here where you will find everything you need to have your own event next year. It’s a good way to educate the community, engage in conversations, and exhibit some community pride!