Growth By Design: The Interplay Between Urban Development and Urban Design

On Tuesday, May 2nd, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau kicked off Jane Week by organizing a forum on urban design review.  A panel of representatives from Lowell, Springfield, Northampton and Boston detailed the processes their towns and cities have put in place to ensure development projects with design standards.  The panelists had good advice for Worcester that we should be "asking for high quality developments."

Winter Hot Soup, Good Books

Jane Jacobs in the Woo will be hibernating until the spring.  With over six months of blogging under our belt, it's time to digest what has been learned, read and think and reach out in real time and space to partners in the city.  Although we are shifting our online presence, our work will continue full time offline.  Please put Jane Week, May 1 - 7, 2017 on your calendar.  We will be planning Jane Walks all over Worcester, surprising tactical urbanism projects, a lecture or two and of course a party with a cake honoring the culmination of Jane Jacobs' 100th birthday year.  See you in the spring!

Loving Worcester Action: Do Something Fun

With the right rose-colored glasses, one can literally change one's perception about the place where one lives. In order to feel some pride in her new town, Melody Warnick decide to develop a tour of places she could showcase to out- of- town visitors. She posted a simple question on her social media accounts, "What's the #1 thing you'd tell a tourist to do in Blacksburg?"  So, I decided to do the same thing.  I posted the very same question about Worcester on my facebook page.  Within a couple of hours, Worcesterites were having a party in the flurry of comments back and forth.  Some people mentioned the standard places (Worcester Art Museum, Ecotarium).  Others left the borders of our city for fun (Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Purgatory Chasm).  Several people mentioned things to do that I had never heard about before (a tour at the Regal Pickle Factory on Mason Street, stargazing with the Aldrich Astronomical Society at Anna Maria).  In less than a couple of hours, my friends had generated a sizable brainstorm of cool things to do in our gritty city.

Loving Worcester Action: Eat Local Food

Want to feel more attached to Worcester?  Find someone like Tony or Fatima who know how to feed you outside of your own home and kitchen.  Forget the chain restaurants and find the little places way-off-the-beaten-track where you can get to know the owner, the chef, the people who wait the tables.  A special thank you to Chris Robarge.  Within half an hour on facebook, we riffed off of each other, generating this starter list of restaurants.  Some are well known and others are as yet undiscovered gems.  Let’s eat local!

Loving Worcester Action: Get Political

Remember why Melody Warnick advocates for us to fight for the little things in our cities and towns.  Getting political locally helps ground us in the places where we live.  Sit on a city advisory board. Testify at a Tuesday city council meeting on an issue you care about.  Speak out for more trees, better train service, more consistent trash collection. Attend a local rally. When we dare to take a stand on a Worcester issue, we place another stake in making our city a place where we want to live. 

Greenleaf Terrace Neighborhood Envy

I have to admit it. After my long visit, I left the little terrace with a tinge of envy.  I want to move to Greenleaf Terrace, sit on the porch and invite the neighbors over for a game of scrabble.  It's always amazing to observe how something so simple as the orientation of a building, the placement of a parking space or the use of a shared passageway could make such an impact on how people relate to each other face-to-face.  Design is key!

Loving Worcester Action: Say Hi To Neighbors

It is the quality and intensity of our real and lived social connections that can make or break our attachment to a particular place.  Neighbors sometimes pick up the slack for those of us movers who are far away from family, creating a neighborhood culture of caring that binds.  It only takes one or two residents to help spark a shift in a neighborhood.  Block parties, collective yard sales, book clubs, game nights, seed exchanges, barbecues are all ways to build neighborhood cohesion.  Melody Warnick describes a neighborhood that has had weekly Sunday night dinners for years.  This tradition started with five families and has since grown to over fifty families.  The host family is in charge of cooking, set up and clean-up.  People come within walking distance and share that one meal together each week.  If one is feeling a bit anti-social, one can just bring a Tupperware container and take the meal to go. 

The 5:30 AM Morning Walk Ritual

Sometimes I miss my entrance to the neighborhood on my early morning walks.  My son needs a snuggle or I roll back over to get some extra time to sleep.  Time passes.  On these lazy mornings when I just can't get out before 5:30, Maria will shout out to me when I reach the Pleasant Market, "You're late today!"  I don't even know George and Maria's last name.  I don't know the name of the man who reads the paper on his porch or the man who nods to me near Duffy field.  But somehow it mattered that I was not here to play my part.  "Overslept!" I might say to her and I smile inside.  My being an integral part of this dance makes me connected to them and to the streets in my neighborhood.  In that moment, I feel like I belong here.