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‘Jane’ walks the talk

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs

International festival in motion expands to Detroit

Jane Jacobs, author and urbanist, was never one run from a good debate. In her book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” she wrote that urban renewal did not respect the needs of the people actually living in the cities. In 1968, she was arrested while protesting to stop a highway from being built through New York’s Washington Square Park. A dedicated activist, some, nonetheless, have accused her work of being racially insensitive and advocating for proto-gentrification.

Since 2007, New York and cities around the world have held Jane’s Walks — a kind of festival in motion designed to bring people together, learn about the neighborhoods through which they walk, and encourage meaningful conversations about how city life can be improved — to celebrate Jacobs and her contribution to how we think of cities.

As Detroit grapples with its own economic difficulties, faltering municipal services and the advent of gentrification, the Municipal Society of New York and the Knight Foundation — both Jane’s Walk sponsors — have decided to expand the event to Detroit.

On May 3, “Live Love Livernois,” will take participating walkers down the Avenue of Fashion and around Detroit’s Sherwood Forest neighborhood. Walk leaders and local residents Vickie Elmer and Madhavi Reddy will lead the voyage and a discussion about the neighborhood’s history and issues relevant to Detroiters today. Reddy helped to bring the idea to Detroit from Toronto where she has organized six walks before.

Live Love Livernois doesn’t have to be the only walk of the festival; organizers want other Detroit residents to propose their own walks, through additional neighborhoods. “Detroit residents are invited to sign up to create a walk or participate in one. The festival is open to individuals of all ages, abilities and income levels. Walk participants learn about their cities and discuss ways to capitalize on successes. They also come up with ideas to tackle community challenges and solve problems,” said organizers in a statement.

“Inherent to building more livable cities is ensuring that people are part of that process. Jane’s Walk is a remarkable way to empower neighbors to meaningfully engage with each other and participate in shaping the future city through sharing knowledge, experience and enthusiasm,” said Mary Row, the Municipal Art Society of New York’s director of urban resilience and livability.

To learn more about Jane’s Walk, register to volunteer or plan and lead a Jane’s Walk through your neighborhood, visit

- Staff report

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