Activating Alleys for a Lively City

Interesting Read, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading

“…Alleys possess compelling potential to produce a vibrant secondary public realm that might also help to repair the ecological performance of our cities” Nancy Rottle RLA, ASLA, Green Futures Lab, University of Washington

 

Last week, we highlighted Tipton, Indiana which is currently working on an alley project as a placemaking tool in their downtown to make it more inviting. Alleys have historically been places for people and have recently gotten away from that to become a place more for automobiles and trash bins. In this document, entitled Activating Alleys for a Lively City by Mary Fialko and Jennifer Hampton, alleys are treated as potential dynamic spaces in a city or town of any size and the authors describe how this change can occur.

The case study is located in Seattle, Washington and the authors describe alleys from many different neighborhoods in the city. They also categorize alleys into the following:

  • High Density Mixed Use
  • Low Density Mixed Use
  • Nightlife District
  • Commercial District
  • Multi Family Residential
  • Single Family Residential

These are diagrammed and then specific ways are discussed as to how these types of alleys can be activated and made fore people again. Some of the goals the authors focus on for what alleys should be are: quality of public space, ecological health of the city, and a safer environment for people. These then can be accomplished through design strategies.

alley map

The authors determined there is a potential of increasing the public space in Seattle by 50% solely by converting alleys into usable public space. Source

Along with attractive drawings, diagrams and charts, the appendix includes a full inventory of 200 alleys in Seattle neighborhoods which is interesting to peruse through!

This resource would be great for any community looking to increase their public space in ways other than pocket parks and an excellent placemaking tool!

Get yours here!

Main Photo Source: Pinterest

 

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Repurposing Urban Alleys

City Planning, Community Spotlight, Funding Opportunities, Tactical Urbanism

When you think of the word “alley” what comes to mind? A small street between 2 buildings? A place where the delivery trucks and trash cans go? A somewhat sketchy area that’s not safe at night? Graffiti? Places which have been traditionally seen as useful spaces, especially in historic Europe, are now often seen as unappealing places of crime. These negative ideas are often associated with urban alleys but through placemaking and artistic efforts, alleys can become public gathering places, bright spots to stop and chat or drink coffee, or artistic expressions of the community.

In downtown Tipton, Indiana, there is a project currently going on to repurpose the public alley between Subway and Luttrell Insurance on South Main Street.

current alley

This is what the current alley space looks like on South Main Street in Tipton, Indiana. There are dozens of these alleys waiting to be repurposed in every Indiana town. Source: Google Maps

proposed alley

With some strings of light, moveable tables and chairs, and artistic additions such as a mural and archway, this space can easily become a destination for community members and visitors. Source.

 

“Dubbed “The Alley,” the project is part of a larger vision to beautify and repurpose public spaces in a way that supports downtown, said Tipton County Economic Development Organization Executive Director Nathan Kring.”

 

These projects are happening around the state and are endorsed by local governments, organizations, and the state. This particular project is through the Tipton County Economic Development Organization and the Tipton Main Street Association. The vision is for the alley to “include seating and a mural, and hopefully be used for public recreation and a venue for Main Street Association events” Source. Events which are put on in Tipton throughout the year will go towards funding the project as well as a matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Alleys like this ones and others around the state and country can become catalysts for renewed interest in the downtown—transforming old spaces into something new in very simple ways like adding strings of light, a mural, moveable tables and chairs, benches, and bike racks, can all encourage people to stop and spend time in the downtown.

Another reason to invest time and money into repurposing alleys is because they are an efficient use of urban space. Michael Scott of Urban Engagement Webcity wrote Urban Salvage: Repurposing Alleys as Public Spaces and states “these thoroughfares are now viewed as potential nodes of economic activity. Their scale—often too narrow for substantive vehicular traffic—makes them the quintessential walkable thoroughfares. Also in the plus column is their value relative to bike storage, recycling and other functional possibilities” (Scott).

A specific example called The Alley Project in Detroit, Michigan is featured on Project for Public Spaces’ website and deals with youth and beautify social spaces. A youth artist collective, Young Nation, and The Detroit Collaborative Design Center “transformed two vacant lots and a detached garage in their neighborhood into a vibrant public place. Today, the garage doors are canvases for art work, the abandoned lots serve as gathering spaces for kids to play after school, and the garage itself is a clubhouse/studio space for youth”. Source.

the alley project_reduced

The Alley Project includes the artistic community of all ages by encouraging them to decorate their city alleys like this one. Source.

 

“Despite having limited resources and minimal investment, the Alley Project succeeded in building community engagement, strengthening a sense of ownership pride in the area, and bringing life to a previously overlooked space” Source.

 

If you’re looking for a fun project which involves community participation, artistic flare, and high returns for your community, consider repurposing an alley into public space!

Main Image Source: The Daily Texan

 

What We’re Reading: From Dead Space to Public Space

Placemaking Globally, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading
How Improving Alleys Can Help Make Better Cities

“To most eyes, alleys are—at best—liminal zones. Inhabiting the space between “here” and “there,” they exist but for the grace of their adjacencies. At worst, they are dark, dank, and even dangerous—seen by city dwellers as dead space. However, to a visionary few, the negative space alleys occupy isn’t dead at all; it’s merely dormant, waiting for a rebirth into something functional and new.” – Matt Alderton

Read more about how cities are activating their underutilized alley spaces and creating welcoming public spaces on ArchDaily.com here!