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Life and Religion

Charlotte city walks mix history with community exploration
Tours connect participants with neighborhoods
Published Friday, April 28, 2017 10:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

It’s hard to connect with Charlotteans from a car.

Since 2012, Charlotte has held city walks that invite people to explore different neighborhoods in a manner that allows them to grasp their history, as well as connect with communities.

“Walk. Observe. Connect—that’s the slogan, and you can’t do that in a car,” said Mary Newsom, City Walks organizer and associate director of Urban and Regional Affairs at UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. “You see so much more when you’re on foot than when you’re driving. You just notice things. It’s a more relaxed way to travel. You can talk to people. You absorb more when you’re on foot.”

Walking tours take place throughout May in Charlotte. They address everything from gentrification to “munching tours” where participants enjoy local cuisine to the botanical gardens at UNCC as well as local wall poems that appear on the side of buildings throughout Uptown.

“There’s a new one this year in the Grove Park neighborhood, which is at the corner of W.T. Harris Boulevard and Sharon Amity,” Newsom said. “There’s a big shopping center there called East Town Market. Neighborhood leader Mimi Davis organized a munching tour in that part of the city, which I think is unfamiliar for most of the people who are familiar with the Central Avenue restaurants. That one is going to be really neat. We have a walk through the botanical gardens at UNC Charlotte, which will be fabulous. They’re going to look at the wall poems and hear from the artists. That’s a new one, and that’s one that I think is going to be really popular.”

City walks take place across the globe, and were inspired by the work of urbanist Jane Jacobs.

“They are essentially organized all around the world in memory of a great urbanist named Jane Jacobs, who wrote basically about New York City and Toronto,” Newsom said. “Those are walking cities. The urban neighborhoods that she knew were neighborhoods where you walked everywhere because that was how you could get around in a city. She lived in an era when the automobile and highways were being built throughout New York, and were destroying neighborhoods. Having a driving tour, it’s just different.”

As Charlotte continues to develop, its preexisting structure dictates that cars serve as the primary means of transportation. City walks deviate by literally inviting people to walk.

“Much of the city was built in the last part of the 20th century,” Newsom said. “You not only have the problem of so many places that are just built for cars—so much of Charlotte was built for cars and not built for pedestrians. You’re cut up with I-77 and the Brookshire Freeway and I-85. They carved through neighborhoods. You’ve got places like Independence Boulevard and Albemarle Road, which may technically have sidewalks, but you just don’t want to be there.”

For more information: http://plancharlotte.org/story/discover-your-city-city-walks-2017


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