Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A group of second-year Urban and Regional Planning students recently hosted a Jane's Walk, a combination walking and bus tour of local neighborhoods, at our recent new student orientation. The event aimed at not only building relationships among incoming students and returning students, but also giving new students exposure to local neighborhoods they otherwise may never visit due to the distance from campus.

The idea for the tours originated in response to second-year student Tabatha Ries-Miller’s interest in hosting a Jane’s Walk, an annual event featuring neighborhood tours organized by local residents in cities throughout the globe in honor of Jane Jacobs. Jacobs was an urban theorist whose primary interests were in communities and urban planning and decay. Inspiration for the tours also derived from the 2010 Upper-Midwest APA Conference in Chicago, which featured a series of mobile workshops in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Burnham Plan. Ries-Miller, a resident and homeowner in the Grant Wood neighborhood, was inspired to organize the event as a fun way to increase awareness of planning issues in the Grant Wood neighborhood and throughout Iowa City.

The tour focused on the Grant Wood Neighborhood, located in the southeast side of Iowa City, but also featured Longfellow, Northside and Peninsula neighborhoods. Grant Wood Neighborhood was selected as the focus of the tour due to its distance and inaccessibility to typical university students and the high-profile ongoing social, economic, and cultural struggles.

Six second-year students volunteered as tour guides, and provided some statistical data along with observational discussion points for each neighborhood. Information for the tours was primarily pulled from the students’ neighborhoods research assignment required by Land Use Law and Practice class, one of the Program’s core courses. The student volunteer tour guides included Tabatha Ries-Miller, Caroline Brigham, Lorin Ditzler, Mike Burke, and James Bechtel.

More information about Jane’s Walk can be found at http://janeswalkusa.wordpress.com/about-us.