With record tourism and residential building going on here, you don’t need to remind locals about the charm of historic downtown Venice.


But what is it that makes the city so “charming?” And how can we preserve it?


That’s a discussion that will be going on for the next two months as the Venice Museum begins a lecture series in conjunction with its Design for Living: John Nolen and the Renaissance of New Urbanism exhibit.


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Victor Dover


City planner and former chair of the Congress for New Urbanism Victor Dover will talk about The Streets of Livable Cities at 7 p.m., Jan. 12 at the Venice Community Center. It’s free to attend.


Dover has been designing walkable, sustainable cities for 25 years across five continents. He and other planners point to Nolen’s 1926-designed city plan for Venice as a model of how to create a community.


Nolen put city planning on the map in the U.S. in the early 20th century, when cities were developing rapidly and haphazardly because of the industrial revolution. Nolen studied European planning and then set up  shop in Cambridge, where his firm created plans for communities across the U.S.


In Venice, Nolen had a blank canvas to design his vision of an ideal city, unobstructed by bureaucracy and politics. (Well, then there was the Depression that created a little obstruction, but when building resumed, the city pulled out Nolen’s plan and mostly stuck to it.)


What gives our city “charm” is that it is surrounded by public parks; it has a walkable, historic downtown, with above-the-store living for people of modest means; civic spaces, such as Centennial Park and the Venice Community Center campus. Our “charm” is planned, not accidental.


Other speakers and topics in the series include: Clay Henderson, “Economic Value of Historic Preservation”, Jan. 26; restaurateur Ed Chiles, “Local Food”, Feb. 9; Dr. Bruce Stephenson, “John Nolen: Landscape Architect and City Planner”, who will also be signing copies of his new book on Nolen.


Visit the Nolen exhibit at the Venice Museum and Archives.