Around 110 people prepare to set out from Nanaimo City Hall on Saturday afternoon to participate in Jane’s Walk, an event bringing attention to walkability, public spaces and community planning. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Column: Jane’s Walk showed downtown from different perspectives

More than 100 people participated in public spaces walking tour of Nanaimo’s downtown Saturday

Chris Sholberg, the City of Nanaimo’s heritage planner, brought along 20 souvenir pins to hand out to participants in Jane’s Walk.

He figured that would be enough – organizers expected 10-15 people, perhaps, might wish to take a stroll downtown Saturday to talk about walkability, public spaces and community planning. As it happened, more than 100 showed up.

“It’s really good to see people interested in the downtown,” said Tyler Brown, who organized Nanaimo’s first Jane’s Walk.

The event, held in nearly 250 cities around the world, is named for Jane Jacobs, an author and activist who advocated for community decision-making in city planning. The idea for a local walk came from Frank Murphy, who operates the urban planning blogs Nanaimo Commons and the Sidewalk Ballet. The city’s first Jane’s Walk, he said, was “beyond expectations.”

Saturday turned out to be a fine day for feeling hopeful about Nanaimo’s downtown. The first stop was the old A&B Sound, where Lauren Semple of Humanity in Art talked about plans for seven artists to cover the building’s exterior with murals depicting colourful characters, flowers, wildlife and other West Coast-inspired images. We continued on, challenged to talk about how to enhance public spaces and make them more accessible and inclusive. We heard about how newer buildings fit in amongst heritage buildings. We were reminded of the South Downtown Waterfront Initiative’s efforts at visioning. We heard ideas about redesigning parkland in hopes of making it more functional and friendly.

“The issues are important,” Brown said. “People want to see their downtown thrive and all the speakers that volunteered their time really spoke to the importance of a downtown for city life and what it can mean around inclusive, safe space, but also the economics of it, the history of our downtown and where it can go in the future.”

Nanaimo’s Jane’s Walk, by looking closely at bits and pieces of the city, was an interesting exercise in that it deconstructed the downtown, so to speak. We sometimes talk about the area as one entity, but as Semple pointed out, a series of what we might consider small interactions make up our impression of the downtown as a whole.

Before the walk, Brown told me he thinks that the vacant buildings and empty spaces downtown present an opportunity. That’s true, but at the same time, any city’s downtown is continually changing. Is there reason to believe a transition is coming sooner than later?

“I want to think so,” Murphy said. “There’s signs, there’s generational change … young activists, really promising signs. So if those come to fruition, there will be real change and a really different approach. The old message won’t be accepted as easily. There’ll be questions asked … I like to think there is a transition in the air for Nanaimo.”

Certain public spaces projects could help hasten downtown revitalization; others are probably dependent upon revitalization. That’s where we get into bigger-picture considerations that become hard to predict. Revitalization can come from municipal leadership on planning, zoning and capital projects, but it will also take private spending, the right economic conditions and business climate, housing and housing affordability, positive tourism trends, investment in arts and culture, social order and safe streets.

I believe it will take a few good ideas, too. And maybe going for a walk this weekend was a start.

“How do you leverage this positive energy to make really promising change? And I don’t know the answer,” Murphy said. “But that’s what’s on a person’s mind after this display – don’t let it be wasted.”



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Gas companies gouging

Gas station operators charge more for fuel in Nanaimo because they can, says letter writer

No flu outbreaks in Nanaimo yet, but health authority still recommends flu shot

Dr. Paul Hasselback says 260,000 doses of vaccine distributed so far

Couple collecting empties for VIU scholarships can’t pick up cans on campus anymore

Parmars have been picking up cans for 12 years; university now enforcing safety policy

Gogo’s tree farm celebrates 90th year of growing Christmas trees

Gogo Christmas tree farm has grown Christmas trees since 1929 and started U-cut business in 1984

Nanaimo’s November was much drier than normal

Region got less than one-third normal rainfall for month and 2019 trending toward driest in 10 years

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

B.C.-born hockey official talks to IIHF about switching European rule book to NHL rules

Rob Shick will represent NHL at 4th World Hockey Forum in Russia

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

Nanaimo Clippers holding Teddy Bear Toss

BCHL team has pair of home games this weekend, including charity event Saturday, Dec. 7

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Most Read