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

 

Transportation and Creative Placemaking

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

In many circumstances, transportation and placemaking can seem like opposites. Transportation is about cars, buses, and trucks, and getting these from one place to another as quickly as possible. Placemaking is about people first, getting cars, buses, and trucks to slow down and consider the place they are in. How do we get these two fields to work together for a product that is best for the general public?

In this comprehensive website by Transportation for America: The Scenic Route, Getting Started with Creative Placemaking and Transportation, they address this situation and provide a plethora of tools including case studies from all around the country, answers to general questions about placemaking from a transportation perspective, and their “eight approaches” to creative placemaking for transportation which include

  • Identify the Community’s Assets and Strengths
  • Integrate the Arts Into Design, Construction and Engineering
  • Marketing to Cultivate Ownership and Pride
  • Leveraging Cultural Districts and Corridors
  • Mobilize the Community to Achieve Your Shared Goals
  • Develop Local Leadership & Capacity
  • Organize Events and Activities
  • Incorporate Arts in Public and Advisory Meetings

This site is specifically “to introduce creative placemaking to transportation planners, public works agencies and local elected officials who are on the front lines of advancing transportation projects” Source.

 

“Done right, creative placemaking can lead to both a better process and a better product, in this case integrating community-inspired art into the ultimate design of the project as so many of the case studies in this guide demonstrate. The end results are streets, sidewalks and public spaces that welcome us, inspire us and move us in every sense of that word.” – James Corless, Director, Transportation for America

 

They also stress how this guide does not have to be read linearly. Each point and case study can be looked over independently of the others and still understood without necessarily going through all the other points in order. If you’re looking for ways to integrate transportation and placemaking, this would be a good start! Another plus is that the picture on the main page is of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail!

Visit the site here and find out how your community can better incorporate transportation and placemaking!

Main Photo Source: The Scenic Route 

THE HIGH LINE AND ITS UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

City Planning, Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, What We're Reading

Planning for All Aspects of a Project

We have all heard about it: the cool, hip, green, tourist attraction in New York City: the High Line. The 1.45 mile long linear park transformed from a rail line attracts 300,000 visitors per year, more visitors than any other location in NYC. This attractive park has over 400 free public programs and more than 30 public art projects per year. The amenities of the High Line are incredible and diverse featuring views of the Hudson River, skyscrapers, parts of the rail line, artwork, access to food carts and more than 350 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, vines, and trees. In addition to all this, the High Line will also generate around $1 billion in tax revenues for the city over 20 years.

By all accounts this seems like a home run, slam dunk, touchdown for a park which runs through many parts of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, and in these ways it is. But there are some unintended consequences which have the designers and surrounding residents rethinking the High Line and how it could have been made better for those already living in the neighborhood.

high-line_pic2-compressed

Many people enjoy the High Line during all times of the year. Source.

 

“During the High Line’s planning stages, Hammond and David set up offices inside a local community agency in order to make themselves accessible to public housing tenants, and solicit their opinions on design. But the questions they asked at their “input meetings” were essentially binary: Blue paint, or green paint? Stairs on the left or the right? They rarely got to the heart of what really mattered.” City Lab

 

The High Line was intended to be a park for the neighborhood—no one could have anticipated the enormous draw it was going to have for tourists. But in being such a well-designed, innovative, accessible and interesting space to explore, an excellent placemaking endeavor in general, it has created concerns for the residents, especially those in public housing projects, two of which are at either end of the High Line. Additionally “1/3 of the residents of the Chelsea neighborhood are people of color” (City Lab). But these demographics are not representative of the visitors to the High Line—they are more often white and more often tourists. By this account, the High Line seems to not completely have achieved its original purpose.“But that’s just it: in hindsight, it might be obvious, but few could have anticipated the High Line’s downright gravitational pull on tourists and developers.” City Lab

high-line_pic1

The High Line provides a green respite and place for activities for many visitors to the city. Source.

So how can designers prepare for this? Is it possible to plan for every aspect of a project and what might happen in multiple different scenarios?

 

“Instead of asking what the design should look like, I wish we’d asked, ‘What can we do for you?’” says Hammond. “Because people have bigger problems than design.” City Lab

 

So what is the High Line doing now to correct these oversights? The Friends of the High Line is the non-profit organization which is continually working to improve the High Line in a variety of ways and to raise money to pay for these improvements and programming. They have launched several initiatives including job-training programs for teens, education for kids, and working specifically with the public housing projects to develop programming specifically for their residents—one in particular called ¡ARRIBA!, summer Latin dance parties, are very popular. They do realize there are some things which could have been done at the beginning which are impossible to go back and correct, especially advocating for public housing.

 

“If you care about the places you’re working in, then you have to be talking about this,” he says. “Because in a growing economy, if you’re building a greenway trail or a transit station or improving a school, it will drive up land values.” City Lab

 

Other similar projects in Washington D.C., L.A. and Atlanta, are learning from these unintended consequences in NYC’s project, but will almost certainly have unintended consequences in their own projects.

In the end, that might be the best anyone can do—set out with a good idea, consult the public, build the project. But to not leave it there—don’t walk away and think it’s done. Continue to assess the project, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and change what needs to be changed. The world is evolving, humans are evolving, jobs and housing preferences are evolving, shouldn’t the public amenities which go along with them?

Read the full story on the High Line and public housing here.

Main Photo Source: A Walk Around Some of Manhattan’s Different Neighborhoods