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When Open Streets 704 kicks off May 1 for its inaugural run, a 3-mile stretch in the 704 area code will be blocked to cars and other motor vehicles from noon to 4 p.m.
It’s a chance to walk, run, bike and explore without having to worry about traffic. And a traffic jam of people spending the day outside their cars would be welcome.
The start or end points are at Memorial Stadium in the Elizabeth neighborhood and at 36th Street in the artsy NoDa neighborhood in north Charlotte. The route runs along parts of 7th Street, North Brevard Street, Belmont Avenue and North Davidson Street.
In addition to getting us up and outdoors, the event is designed to help visitors get better acquainted with communities along the route, said DC Lucchesi, a member of the organizing team.
It’s “changing perspective and seeing the street as a connector rather than a divider,” Lucchesi said.
More than 100 cities in the United States and Canada host Open Streets events, Lucchesi said.
Charlotte’s event is being organized through a partnership of the Mecklenburg County Health Department, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, the city of Charlotte and the Knight Foundation, as well as others.
Charlotte’s route will connect NoDa, Villa Heights, Optimist Park, Belmont and First Ward – not neighborhoods usually considered to host community events. That was a plus for planners.
Safety and logistics were concerns because organizers had to get approval from local police and fire departments to block traffic from city streets. “Soft closures” will allow traffic to cut through in some places.
With the streets closed, visitors can take time for the event’s planned activities or organize their own, formal or informal.
“There are going to be lightly programmed bits along the 3 miles and plenty of open space to do your own thing,” Lucchesi said.
Four zones are planned for organized activities: arts and crafts in NoDa, a family zone and a green zone in Belmont and Optimist Park, and a wellness zone in First Ward and Elizabeth. Bike valet service will be offered in each zone.
Food trucks will assemble near the center of the route, which also offers easy access to Cordelia Park and Little Sugar Creek Greenway, as well as restaurants and shops near 36th Street.
The event coincides with the opening weekend of BIKE! Charlotte, which will bring 17 days of events April 29 through May 15 to encourage cycling and a healthy, active lifestyle.
Want to host an activity? Contact Open Street 704’s Activities Team.
“Part of this is to be as organic as the neighborhoods want to be,” Lucchesi said.