Monday, January 26, 2015

Waking by walking: The power of pedestrian moments

Oak Hills is a small, rolling neighborhood south of Alton Park and east of St. Elmo, bounded by the Forest Hills Cemetery, the foothills of Lookout Mountain and Piney Woods. It’s dotted with tall, narrow frame houses with a few remaining Queen Anne details, the last holdouts of the neighborhood’s long history since the 1800s, and filled in with a handful of bungalows and many midcentury ranches. It’s a pretty neighborhood, one that I took great pleasure in strolling through on a chilly winter day, on assignment to spend half an hour wandering up and down Grand Avenue and Cane Street with an assortment of some of Chattanooga’s most dedicated neighborhood association board members. 
We had gotten up early on a Saturday to take part in Neighborhood University, a program offered by NeighborWorks America and the city of Chattanooga to give neighborhood leadership the tools they need to plan more effective programing and create stronger communities. I was standing in for my mother, who was out of town but hoped I would take good notes for her. The lesson of the day was "walking the block," a process of actively observing the streets and houses in a neighborhood to observe what’s working, what isn’t and what sort of impressions the neighborhood might leave a newcomer or outsider.

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