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

 

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.

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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 

 

 

Visualizing a Just, Equitable, and Vibrant Neighborhood for the Monon 16

Community Spotlight, Funding Opportunities, News and Upcoming Events, Placemaking Resources

Pre-Enactment Theater in Indianapolis

harrison-center_pic3_compressed

Bird’s eye view looking east on E 16th St. at the Oaks Academy Middle School.

The Harrison Center for the Arts opened in 2000 at 16th and Delaware in the Old Northside neighborhood. This neighborhood, like many others in Indianapolis, had taken a hit since its prime around the turn of the century, when President Benjamin Harrison lived in and was involved with the neighborhood. Since 2000, the Harrison Center has expanded their sphere of influence and had a positive impact on the neighborhood, by hosting gallery shows, outdoor concerts, offering studio spaces, and creating Herron High School in 2004. Now, with the help of Patronicity, the general public, and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), they are embarking on a completely new initiative—community engagement and planning for the future through visioning strategies and a strategy dubbed “pre-enactment”: bringing a community’s hope for their future to life.

“Pre-Enactment envisions a just, equitable and vibrant neighborhood where everyone is included in economic prosperity.  Rather than dwelling on the past through “re-enactment”, we will “pre-enact” a new, vibrant commercial corridor that serves as hope for the future. The 12-month-long series of community visioning sessions and creative placemaking activities along 16th Street will culminate in a huge, day-long public event on October 7, 2017” (The Harrison Center for the Arts).

The Harrison Center is dissatisfied with the disinvestment, high vacancy rates of both homes and commercial buildings, high unemployment rate, poverty issues and poor levels of education which are present in their neighborhood. They are motivated to change these aspects of their community and show the rest of the neighborhood what the area has the potential to become using “temporary and permanent improvements to the physical structures to depict a healthy neighborhood”.

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Harrison Center for the Arts theater students will set up pop-up storefronts and activities to show neighbors the potential of the neighborhood. Source: Vimeo video

 

By including people from the Harrison Center for the Arts who are already invested in the neighborhood in the visioning efforts of the community, they will build a base of people to follow through with the efforts to permanently revitalize the neighborhood and directly involve neighbors who might not be inclined to get involved otherwise. This Indianapolis-based model of creative placemaking and neighborhood revitalization will be the first of its kind and could have far-reaching impacts around the country, showcasing a new, innovative way to enact change at the neighborhood level. Bringing together theater, the arts, pop-up establishments and community engagement with neighborhood and economic revitalization is a unique approach to issues which plague almost every city in the U.S.

This project is also unique because it is being funded through crowdgranting. The Detroit-based site, Patronicity, is currently hosting three other Indiana projects (in Greensburg, South Bend and Wabash) which are being funded in the same way as well as projects in Michigan and Massachusetts. The Pre-Enactment Theater in Indianapolis has a goal of $50,000 which will then be matched dollar for dollar by IHCDA. Their deadline is in 8 days, on February 15th, and they have just over $13,000 to go! If you feel intrigued and excited about this project or organization, make sure you go to the Pre-Enactment Theater’s page on Patronicity’s website and donate to their cause! Don’t forget to keep up with the Harrison Center for the Arts as they continue their efforts in the Old Northside neighborhood!

Read more about the project and watch a video explaining the process here.

Main photo source: Pre-Enactment Theater is coming to Monon 16! 

What We’re Reading: 16 Ways to Design a Better Intersection

What to Read, What We're Reading

 

INTERSECTION
Image: Mike Lee, Wired

 

IF YOU THINK the only purpose of intersections is to move cars past each other, you solve problems like a plumber: with bigger pipes. But wide, barren streets full of traffic don’t make a livable city.” – Tim De Chant, Wired