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Civic Impact

People's Queen Street looks to the city's sexiest thoroughfare to prompt civic engagement

Queen Street.

“We’re running a series of tactical urban workshops, which is just a fancy way of asking how we can go out into the city and have fun,” says Edward Nixon, one of the founders of People’s Queen Street, when explaining his group's upcoming event, called “Change the Street. Change the City.” Happening April 25 at the Centre for Social Innovation’s Spadina location, the daylong event is a mix of panel discussions and hands-on brainstorming sessions. The goal is to generate ideas for 100 In A Day, a global community-driven civic action initiative.

Naturally, Nixon’s group will focus on Queen Street. In the past, People’s Queen Street has run events like the Queen Street Walk, which saw a group of about 60 people explore the length of the street from Neville Park to Roncesvalles. This year, they’ll try to capitalize on Queen Street’s already-robust street scene. Nixon says, “You don’t need to be a planning or transportation expert to realize that the bulk of the people in the area are on foot or on transit. When you look at how to change the conversation, Queen Street is the low-hanging fruit.”

The event will kick off with a panel that includes Matthew Blackett, the founder and publisher of Spacing magazine; Ken Greenberg, the former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the city of Toronto, author of Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder, and one of the speakers for Yonge Street's May 20 speakers series event; and Ren Thomas, who examines how temporarily car-free spaces (such as Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays) influence how people see that space. In the afternoon, participants will work in groups to conceive of new ways to shape Queen Street’s pedestrian culture. Previous group sessions have led to ideas like mini-parks: “Last year, we took over parking spaces near Soho Street, put down grass and hammocks and had a great response from passers-by. It was a great physical manifestation of what we were talking about.”

Nixon hopes that the event on April 25 will mark the start a neighbourly conversation. “We want to build a larger circle of like-minded folks to continue to work on projects to work on Queen Street, to enhance the public spirit of the street with bikes, art, and pedestrians. We want to use this to kick off a regular series of events.”

Source: Edward Nixon
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