I can’t believe it’s been over a week since Raleigh’s inaugural Jane’s Walk and I have yet to give everyone a recap of its dazzling successes (not counting the recap I gave Downtown Dame). If you need a refresher as to what Jane’s Walk is, please refer to my earlier post where the concept made its Quailford.com debut.
Like any other weekend in Raleigh (practically all year round), Jane’s Walk was not the only event taking over downtown the weekend of May 3-4. Some might see the overlapping festivals (Car Show, LGBT street fair, Food Truck Rodeo…) as an issue, but I see it as proof of diversity and growth!
Jane’s Walk is truly a one-of-a-kind event. Anyone can create a walk. There’s no need to sign up to go on a walk. No cost associated. The idea is to share an open, judgement-free, community-centric discussion with neighbors. It’s as simple as that!
There is only one problem with its simplicity – the other walk leaders and I had no idea how many people to expect to join us on our walks. This “problem” turned out to be a real blessing. Throughout the course of the weekend, 300 Jane’s Walkers conversed and traversed all over Raleigh! If that overwhelming figure is not enough to convince you of Jane’s Walk Raleigh’s success, then maybe you will appreciate the fact that our page experienced the heaviest traffic volume out of all of the cities on the Jane’s Walk Headquarters site (the web marketer in me had to share that).
Twenty-eight walkers followed architect Frank Harmon & researcher Catherine Bishir around the Capitol grounds. I’m upset that I had to miss this tour since it was directly before my walk. Hopefully this dynamic duo will lead a walk again next year and I’ll be able to join! The good news is that the Capitol building offers traditional tours lead by trained docents on Saturdays at 11am and 2pm.
I was shocked to have had 45+ tourists join me on my walk! Though I made a hobby of writing promotional guest posts on the Jane’s Walk blog, Goodnight Raleigh, and The Raleigh Connoisseur, I was certain that a maximum of 15 people would be behind me. That was a generous estimate considering six of those people came from my own family and I had begged the other nine 😉
Since public speaking is not my strong suit, the prospect of leading a 75 minute walk-and-talk centered around a subject that I am by no means an expert in made me pretty anxious. I even dragged Ben and Quailford around downtown the Monday before on a practice run. The day of the walk, as more and more people that I had never seen before kept trickling onto the sidewalk in front of the Briggs Hardware Building, my nerves were absolutely racking! However, the collaborative storytelling nature of Jane’s Walk gave me confidence and comfort.
My biggest fear was that there would be architects, historians, or prominent business-owners on my walk to heckle me. And true, there may have been architects, historians, and prominent business-owners on the walk, but they did anything but heckle me. As a matter of fact, each walker contributed something very unique to the conversation – their own input and opinion. The highlight of the tour was when one of the walkers, the owner of Capital Bank Plaza, let us inside the building’s lobby!
As Raleigh’s former chief planning officer, Mitchell Silver guided the most popular tour with over 110 walkers. His focus on Raleigh’s progress was an appropriate transition from the first two more historically-themed walks of the day. We walked through the up-and-coming Warehouse District to see the future home of Union Station and Citrix. Mitchell made some great points about the necessary trade-offs when planning for a rapidly developing area such as downtown. I’m making a note to share some key takeaways with you on a very deserving separate post!
On Sunday, Matt Tomasulo of CityFabric and WalkYourCity welcomed over 90 walkers to his co-working space, BLDG Co. in Boylan Heights. I have followed Matt’s efforts for several years, and most recently heard him speak for Creative Mornings at CAM Raleigh. We strolled through historic Boylan Heights, crossed Western Boulevard, and made our way to the Dorthea Dix property. Though I am familiar with the iconic views that the (hopefully) future park offers, I had no idea that there was this much space available for pleasure within just a few minutes of downtown. While attending the Downtown Raleigh Alliance Awards Ceremony back in February, I heard a sound byte from Mayor McFarlane that Raleigh has over 90,000 acres of green space within city limits. That’s more than Atlanta and Minneapolis! After seeing the endless green pastures on Matt’s walk, I understand why we need to embrace this asset.
In addition to talking with my own family and friends, I met so many other neighbors that care about leaving the best legacy for our city. Notable new friends included the owner of Capital Bank Plaza, a Raleigh Little Radio volunteer, and the other walk leaders. I was most inspired by our City Organizer, Katherine Loflin, who brought Jane’s Walk to Raleigh. By spearheading a study called “Soul of the Community”, the NC native and her team concluded that out of all of the drivers, openness is the most important factor in connecting people with their places across the board. Her passion for Raleigh’s citizenry and expertise in building healthy communities are what motivated her to bring the open-source concept of Jane’s Walk to the City of Oaks!
Participating in Jane’s Walk has been metamorphic in the way I view Raleigh and its residents. The more we know, the more we share, the more we care! Even though it is an annual event, Jane’s Walk’s mission resonates all year round via community curiosity and conversation. This definitely won’t be the last time you hear me talk about Jane’s Walk in 2014!
*Photos courtesy of Katherine Loflin