The Revitalizing Power of Alleys

Cities around the country are implementing alley improvement programs as a tool for neighborhood revitalization, with benefits to the economy and the environment. A recent article celebrates the strides cities have made in reclaiming alley spaces.
Oran Viriyincy / Flickr

Michael Scott writes of the growing prominence of projects that transform “gritty alleyways into attractive, functional spaces.” Scott especially notes that “the hope is to attract pedestrian activity and turn what are otherwise seen as dark and dangerous passages into catalysts for civic and economic vibrancy.”

For some of the more prominent, big city examples of successful alley projects, Smith mentions Seattle’s Nord Alley, San Jose’s Paseo de San Antonio, and San Francisco’s Belden Place. Smaller cities like Ferndale, Michigan, also receive praise for their adaptive reuse of downtown alleys.

In keeping with the breadth of the survey, Smith also mentions some of the problems that arise from reprised alleys: “One big roadblock often is the logistics of converting what has been a vehicular arterial into a path amenable to foot traffic. As is the norm in dense environments, local drivers use alleys as cut-throughs to avoid traffic. In commercial districts, alleys are an access point for trash haulers or trucks making deliveries to merchants whose stores back up to the alley.”

Full Story: Blind Alleys of Urban Branding by Michael Scott

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