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

 

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

 

Revitalization of a True American City: Gary, Indiana

City Planning, Community Spotlight, Funding Opportunities, News and Upcoming Events, Uncategorized

Many downtowns in Indiana have become run-down, underutilized, and in distress in the past 70 years. Perhaps one of the most well-known in this category is Gary, Indiana. Located on the northwest corner of Indiana along Lake Michigan and 30 miles from Chicago, Gary is often associated with a run-down downtown, a declining population and loss of jobs in the area. The flip side of this though, and one which the current leaders in Gary are attempting to capture, is the incredible amount of opportunity for rebirth and revitalization within the area.

gary-pic-2

Gary is working towards capturing the history of their downtown and showcasing it for visitors as well. Source.

The Gary Preservation Tour is the newest addition to Patronicity’s CreatINg Places project list. Three different projects have been funded in the last two months with a collaboration from crowdfunding and matching grants from IHCDA, including the Pre-Enactment Theater! This Preservation Tour will take place during the summer of 2017 over the course of three days and includes two days of walking tours which will lead visitors through the history of Gary present in the downtown. The Associate City Planner of Gary, Alex Koerner, has sited different buildings which will be on the tour including “City Hall, Union Station, the Gary Land Co. building in Gateway Park, and the Hotel Gary (now called Genesis Towers)” (Source). The last day will be an open house where everyone is invited to come to Gary and explore the city at their leisure using volunteers and new wayfinding signage to guide themselves around downtown.

The money raised by crowdfunders through Patronicity and matched by IHCDA will help pay for securing key historic buildings in the downtown, improving the aesthetic of Broadway Street with banners, and paying for costs during the event in the summer.

gary-pic-1_compressed

One of Gary’s goals is to preserve historic buildings in order to later restore them including this 100 year old Methodist Church. Source. 

Gary has an even more comprehensive goal than getting people downtown for a couple days during the summer to admire some of their historic buildings—they are coupling the walking tours with events going on in Gary to get people to stick around and check out what Gary has to offer including baseball games, restaurants, and arts festivals. Connecting people to the place they are living is an extremely important part of this endeavor as is the walking part of the walking tour.

In the summer of 2016, a study came out done by the Arup group out of London called Cities Alive, Toward a Walking World which shows in detail how designing cities for pedestrians over cars has immense benefits in every area of a city’s health and the health of its citizens. It also includes an incredible amount of case studies backing this up. Some of the reasons they outlined can be used to substantiate Gary’s process and goals and show how increasing Gary’s walkability factor can increase their attraction as a stable Indiana community.

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and place, you get people and places” – Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces

More walkable streets improve a city by:

  • Bringing back “eyes on the street”
    • A cheap way to make people feel safe on the streets.
  • Making neighborhoods more vibrant
    • Walking around a place which was built for people will bring people back multiple times and encourage them to spend more time in these areas.
  • Enhancing “sense of place”
    • Increases people’s sense of civic responsibility to take care of a distinct place.
  • Fostering social interaction
    • New people will get to meet each other!
  • Improving a city’s brand and identity
    • Making a city more walkable makes it more livable and making a city more livable makes more people want to visit.
  • Increasing tourism
    • See above.
  • Activating the street façade
    • Walkable cities will also have less vacant storefronts and more foot traffic in those stores.
  • Inspiring civic responsibility
    • It is much harder to pass up issues which you see while walking around than while driving— a walkable city encourage individuals to come together and advocate for each other.
  • Helping make cities more resilient
    • Crises which affect cities that are dependent on the automobile or other forms of transit will have less of an effect on cities that are more walkable.
  • Being a tool for urban regeneration
    • People walking around a neighborhood or the downtown connect with other individuals in the area, and then become more invested in that area and motivated to act. That’s when change happens within cities and communities.

To see more of these examples, visit this article!

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Walkability is not only good for revitalizing communities, it increases individual’s physical health, economic wealth, and overall environmental health. Source. 

This is just a small portion of what effects encouraging and showcasing walkability in a community like Gary can have on the immediate and surrounding areas. Showing the public that Gary is investing in its core downtown, revitalizing distinct and beautiful core buildings, and building the place up for people, will give people renewed hope for Gary’s future and drive to be part of the exciting change currently happening there.

The best thing you can do for Gary is to go home and say four nice things about it.” – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

I would add that another good thing you can do for Gary is to go walk around it.

To learn more about Gary’s Preservation Tour or to donate to their cause, visit their page on Patronicity‘s website, or go to their Facebook page!

Main Photo Source: Gary Preservation Tour