Neighbors and friends,
This coming Sunday we’re holding our second Open Streets 704 celebration, and you’re invited to join us for a community celebration of our hometown.
This exciting initiative began a little over a year ago when city and county leaders were inspired by a visit from Gil Penalosa, the “father of open streets.” They began to discuss creating an open streets program in Charlotte that would connect people and neighborhoods, support public health, promote active transportation and celebrate our wonderful parks. The idea, supported by Gil’s bold guidance, was to transform 3-plus miles of city streets into a linear park for an afternoon. The streets would be opened to walking, biking, dancing and a variety of community-led activities. But most importantly, open streets would bring us together along the same surfaces that sometimes separate us.
With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, launched in May with our first event. It was hugely successful, attended by over 10,000 people. Ninety-eight percent of participants we surveyed said it improved their feelings about Charlotte, and 100 percent believe the event strengthens our community.
Now, neighborhoods are clamoring to be a part of future Open Streets 704 routes – a fantastic endorsement of the power and potential in this grassroots, community-building program.
They won’t have to wait long. The next Open Streets 704 celebration, again supported by Knight Foundation, is on Sunday, Oct. 23, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. connects Historic West End to Uptown and South End. With over 70 activities planned along the route, it promises to deliver an exciting, family-friendly experience.
The event in May showed us how this community-driven initiative can touch on so many of the priorities we share as a city. A lot has changed in Charlotte since May, and after the events of the past month, there is one priority that seems to stand above the rest – building community.
Like many of you, we were heartbroken to see the violence and upheaval that occurred in Charlotte over the past month. We were heartbroken by the pain in 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant’s voice as she delivered one of the most courageous and eloquent speeches that our City Council has likely ever heard. We’re still heartbroken by the systemic inequality that separates the haves and have-nots in Charlotte.
Open Streets 704 is obviously not the answer to the systemic issues of race and poverty that face our community. But by making the space we need to engage with each other, it can be a small part of the solution. It’s a uniquely emotional experience to see people of all ages, races and backgrounds joyfully interacting and building community. For four hours on a Sunday afternoon, Open Streets 704 delivers that opportunity.
More than 100 cities in North America have open streets events. None have the unique identity and character of Charlotte’s Open Streets 704. It isn’t just FOR Charlotte; it is Charlotte. Open Streets 704 is a reflection of who we are as a community, and what we can be. Open Streets 704 is not about one voice offering big solutions to big problems. It’s about making space for many voices coming together to find harmony. We love this city, and we are grateful for the chorus. Thank you for your continued support. We hope you’ll join us on Sunday!
Open Streets 704 Planning Team
The Open Streets 704 Planning Team is a unique collaboration between over 50 organizations and individuals, including the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Partners for Parks, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Charlotte B-Cycle, Healthy Charlotte, Charlotte Center City Partners, Sustain Charlotte, and others.