It is that time of year again. Jane’s Walk time! A great way to enjoy the outdoors, connect and reconnect with new and old friends, all the while learning a tidbit or two about a community.
Many of us have been on pub crawls, grabbing a pint at a handful of restaurants or bars over the course of an evening or weekend. Apply the same concept to Jane’s Walks. Hundreds of walks are planned throughout the city for the enjoyment of any interested individuals while all coming at a cost of zero dollars! So take a few moments to plan your weekend and attend as many Jane’s Walks as you can during the 2019 Jane’s Walk Festival from May 3-5!
As a Manager of some BIAs (Business Improvement Areas) in Toronto, I have found Jane’s Walks to be a great way to connect with the local residents, to help showcase many of the small businesses and highlight the features that the BIA has added to the public realm. It is not uncommon for people to not understand what a BIA is and the role that they play in a community. Jane’s Walks allow me to educate people on the importance that the organization has on an area to help increase vitality, inform of the advocacy that is happening and efforts made to drive the hyper-local economy.
What is a BIA?
They are a collective of commercial property owners in a designated area that are run by a volunteer board to create a vision and execute that vision. BIAs were originally formed in Toronto with Bloor West Village being the first one in the world. To date, there are hundreds of BIAs throughout Canada, the US and beyond. Toronto has 83, with the number increasing every year. BIAs are often responsible for many of the street festivals that are put on every year, provide street beautification elements and even free wifi! I encourage all BIAs to add a Jane’s Walk into their programming to attract new people to the area and share the great things or history of their area.
Inspiration of Jane Jacobs
As an empowered woman and individual, I became extremely fascinated and proud of the amazing efforts Jane Jacobs had on such an important city, New York, to preserve its public space. She would not take “no” for an answer and fought against the powerful individual, Robert Moses,who thought they could defeat her. On a recent visit to The Big Apple, I made sure to visit Washington Square and stand in the space that could have once become a highway, disrupting the peaceful and necessary green space. I purchased her book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” in New York and it will be a forever piece in my personal literary collection.
On a more local level, it is incredible to know that Jane Jacobs also had a huge impact on a coveted neighbourhoods here helping to educate communities on the value of preserving all aspects of our city life to celebrate a healthy mix of people, buildings, animals, and systems.
Why Be a Walk Leader?
Being a walk leader allows me to proudly share the achievements of the BIAs and share their hidden gems. It is an easy but fulfilling way for me to give back to my communities. Looking back five to ten years ago, I would have never thought that I would be working in an industry like this. Hailing from a 15 year retail career, the transition into the BIA industry was fairly natural. Understanding the customer service aspect is crucial to any business, big or small and allows me to be very relatable to many of the members of the BIAs. Before becoming a walk leader, I did attend about 4 or 5 walks and always left feeling inspired and even more curious about the places I was introduced to and have made subsequent return trips tot those areas.
2019 Jane’s Walks I will be hosting:
See you there!
(Story submission by Meg Marshall)