Downtown Phoenix will be home to the city’s inaugural Jane’s Walk on Saturday, May 2, 2009. The free walking tour — part of an international annual event commemorating the birthday of renowned urban activist Jane Jacobs, who died in 2006 — will take place between 9:00 and 11:00 am. It will start, and end, at Portland Park on First Avenue and Portland Street (next to the Roosevelt and Central light rail station).
Jane’s Walk is a “street-level celebration” of Jacobs’ legacy and ideas, combining the simple act of walking with personal observations, urban history and local lore as a means of knitting people together into a strong and resourceful community through bottom-up approaches and neighborhood involvement.
Jacobs was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, yet wrote what many consider to be the ‘bible’ of urban planning. Her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced groundbreaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail — concepts that are now common sense to generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists. Jacobs championed the interests and knowledge of local residents and pedestrians over a centralized, car-centered approach to planning. She also promoted refurbishing old buildings instead of tearing them down and building new ones, and demonstrated the desirability of increasing the density of cities instead of sprawling endlessly outward.
Cities across Canada, the U.S. and India will also host Jane’s Walks the first weekend in May. This is the third consecutive year of Jane’s Walks in North America. So far, the walks have occurred in Toronto and New York in 2007, and in Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Salt Lake City in 2008. This year, the walks have spread to 41 cities, including two in India. Several cities are host to multiple walks. You don’t have to be familiar with Jacobs’ work to walk. The event is intended to be fun and participatory – everyone has a story and they’re usually keen to share it. Whether you’re a local activist, resident, business owner, politician, preservationist, or simply a citizen who loves your community, participating in Jane’s Walk Phoenix is a great way to celebrate the reemergence of downtown Phoenix as a vital urban hub, and to honor Jacobs’ legacy.
Jane’s Walk USA is managed by the Center for the Living City, a non-profit organization operating out of the University of Utah’s Department of City & Metropolitan Planning. The Center for the Living City is linked in spirit and purpose with its sister organization, The Centre for City Ecology in Toronto.