Around Town

Open Streets 704 this weekend aims to show roads are for people, not just cars

The intersection of North Davidson Street and East 36th street near the near the site of a proposed Crescent Communities redevelopment in NoDa, Wednesday, July 15, 2015.

The  Blue Line extension development is causing a surge of new construction following the track in the area.
The intersection of North Davidson Street and East 36th street near the near the site of a proposed Crescent Communities redevelopment in NoDa, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The Blue Line extension development is causing a surge of new construction following the track in the area.

In Ely Portillo’s story earlier this week about what city leaders in the 1960s imagined for downtown Charlotte, one idea that never came to fruition stuck with me — Trade Street going underground in order to form a pedestrian plaza for the two blocks on either side of Tryon Street.

Burying a road for two blocks seems like a lot of work, so I understand why it didn’t happen, but I like the idea of having chunks of streets uptown that are closed to automobile traffic. (Off the top of my head, I think Elizabeth Avenue near the hospital and with the streetcar would be perfect for this.)

Will something like that ever happen? Well, temporarily at least, it’ll happen this weekend during the first Open Streets 704 event May 1.

Open Streets 704 details:

(Credit to this Observer report from Karen Sullivan.)

– When: noon-4 p.m. May 1.

– Where: A three-mile stretch of roads, from Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth to 36th Street in NoDa. It winds through Villa Heights, Optimist Park, Belmont and First Ward. (See map below, or click here for a PDF.)

– Why?: So you can walk, run, bike and explore parts of the city without having to worry about traffic, and to show that streets are for people, not just for automobiles.

It’s “changing perspective and seeing the street as a connector rather than a divider,” David “DC” Lucchesi, a member of the organizing team, told the Observer.

You also get to explore some neighborhoods you may not be familiar with.

What would YOU do with open streets?

A photo posted by @openstreets704 on Apr 6, 2016 at 6:56am PDT

What: There are four zones for organized activities:

  • Arts and crafts in NoDa
  • Family zone and green zone in Belmont and Optimist Park
  • Wellness zone in First Ward

You can also just make up and organize your own activities.

“There are going to be lightly programmed bits along the 3 miles and plenty of open space to do your own thing,” Lucchesi said.

Adult. Tricycle. Races. Who’s in?

A photo posted by @openstreets704 on Apr 22, 2016 at 9:02am PDT

Who: The event was organized through a partnership of Partners for Parks, Mecklenburg County Government, City of Charlotte Department of Transportation, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and the Mecklenburg County Health Department, and through a grant from the Knight Foundation.

And this isn’t just a Charlotte thing: More than 100 cities in the United States and Canada host Open Streets events.

Food: Food trucks will be near the center of the route, with easy access to Cordelia Park and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. And, obviously, you’ve got places to eat in NoDa.

This also coincides with the beginning of BIKE! Charlotte, 17 days of bike-related events and promotions to encourage more bicycling in Charlotte.

Another aspect of that 1965 Charlotte plan that stuck out to me: its intense focus on cars. Events like Open Streets 704 can open our eyes to a different vision of transportation in Charlotte, one where walkers and bikers and commuters of all kinds can share the road.

Photo: Davie Hinshaw/Charlotte Observer

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