The next Open Streets 704 is 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, April 29. The route will include Plaza Midwood, Belmont, Villa Heights, NoDa, Optimist Park and parts of Commonwealth. This year, event planners promise more live music, featuring local talent on multiple stages.

Open Streets 704 started as a pilot program with funding from the Knight Foundation. It allowed for three to five miles of city streets to be closed to cars and open to pedestrians, bicycle riders and runners for a four-hour period. It’s like a giant block party.

Open Streets coordinators are moving forward with making it a sustainable program for our city.

“We have not applied for future funding from the Knight Foundation,” Monica Holmes, urban designer with City of Charlotte’s Urban Design, said. “We are really trying to leave the nest, so to speak,”

The international organization, Open Streets Project, is a collaboration between 8 80 Cities and Street Plans. The non-profit supports events across North America by offering a tool kit to cities interested in planning an Open Streets event. Cities such as Atlanta, Charlottesville, Carrboro, Savannah, Ottawa and Toronto participate each year.

Charlotte’s Open Streets 704 has grown in popularity. In its first year, 2016, an estimated 25,000 people participated in the two events. In the second year, it jumped to 40,000, with half being new participants and half being returners.

“Our events have grown,” Holmes said. “People love to be outside. They get to go out and experience their neighborhoods and meet different people.”

A successful Open Streets event in Charlotte takes the coordination between multiple departments within Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte, as well as 20 to 30 volunteers. Each event costs $50,000 to $60,000, one-third of the cost of other cities Open Streets events, said Holmes. Most of those costs are related to hiring CMPD officers to close the streets.

Open Streets will feature four zones along the route: Arts and Science, Family, Green and Wellness. They expect more than 130 hosts on the streets offering arts and crafts, games and other fun activities.

There are many ways for Charlotte residents and business owners to get involved in Open Streets. The link to participate goes live on February 17.

  • Volunteer for a shift: 50 to 60 people are needed to staff the information booths, work at activities and be intersection superheroes.
  • Sponsor your block for $50: Get your neighbors together to decorate your street with sidewalk chalk. Pick a theme, choose a design or make it a free for all. This opportunity is being offered for the first time and is a move toward sustainability.
  • Host an activity: Businesses, non-profit organization and individuals are encouraged to submit an idea for an activity.

Attend the free Open Streets 704 Route Reveal Party Saturday, Feb 17 at Free Range Brewing from 6-9 p.m. at 2320 N. Davidson Street, Suite D. Learn what streets are on the route, listen to the Shana Blake Band and sign up for activities and volunteering. Folks who sign up to host an activity at this event will get priority.

Ride your bike to the party and get a free bike valet from B-Cycle. Bike Van will also be on the premises to answer any bike service questions.

“We want to bring a little bit of flavor of Open Streets to the Route Reveal Party,” Holmes said. “We’ve asked some of our great partners to be there with us.”

Photos: Michael Hernandez

Original story appeared on Charlotte Five by Vanessa Infanzon on