Jane Jacobs (1916 - 2006) was a writer and activist who came to be considered by many as one of the most important urban thinkers of the past century. She was not a trained planner or architect, in fact, she never received a college degree. Instead, she garnered her insight on urban economies and urban form by watching how people use the city from her walk-up in the West Village of New York. Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), fundamentally changed the way we think about cities. Her voice continues to reverberate across the country and globe. In fact, her insights in Death and Life still ring true today. Jacobs called for walkable communities, a mix of uses (and time of use) on the street, short blocks, and diversity of building ages and types to increase the economic viability and safety of neighborhoods. What were, at the time, radical ideas, are now almost considered common sense today.
Last year we had our first walk in Mesa, moving through neighborhoods and down Main street, walking, talking, sharing, connecting with neighbors and looking at the downtown area in a different light. This weekend we do it again.
There are two Jane Jacobs Walks scheduled for Mesa. The first, on Saturday, is hosted by Metro and will take participants by bus and walking along the coming light rail route, to the Mesa Arts Center. The walk will include artists, city and Metro officials to answer your questions about the station designs, transit-oriented development and more. Afterward, participants will return to the Sycamore & Main station to head to Tempe to take a look at their imminent modern streetcar project.
Sunday, I will host a walk starting at Lo-Fi Coffee. We will make a "walking audit" -- take a look at the connections, strengths, opportunities and possibilities both north and south of Main street and about the opportunities that are coming with the imminent Light Rail.
When we return at the end of the walk, we will discuss, draw and write our ideas down to share.
But before that, on Friday night around 7pm, come socialize at Il Vinaio, talk about the Downtown, Jane Jacobs, or whatever other urban topic comes about. Enjoy a great glass of wine, beer or root beer and excellent, compelling and provocative conversation as we kick off the Jane Jacobs Walk weekend.
Remember, Jane Jacobs Walks are, more than anything, walking conversations. Bring your hats, your water and your minds. Come to share, come to listen, come to see Mesa . . . and Stringtown, rise.
For specific details about these or other Jane Jacobs Walks in the Valley or around the country, please check out www.JaneJacobsWalk.org.