Wednesday, April 30, 2014

U.S. Cities Recognizing New Value in Alleys

From: - Blind Alleys of Urban Branding - Downtown Colorado Inc. April 9th 2014
Michael Scott is the Editor of UrbanWebcity, an online community examining the intersection between people and the urban environments in which they live. Michael can be reached at

"In many historic European cities, alleys have long been an integral part of urban landscapes, revered as epicenters of cultural and civic activity. In the U.S., they have traditionally been seen as unappealing service corridors between buildings, synonymous with crime, vice, and bottle-toting street vagrants, not for public use." 

Sacramento's Old Soul Coffee patrons enjoy the alley atmosphere

"From a broader perspective, alley revitalization efforts that support the efficient use of urban space are being increasingly seen as a key strategic piece in the overall branding identity of a city. This is particularly true as local governments seek ways to boost declining revenues during our nation’s economic recovery. Many alleys because they are too narrow for a steady flow of vehicular traffic, are primed to serve as walkable thoroughfares, fueling consumer spending and commerce. Other benefits include bike storage and recycling, among other functional possibilities."

[Until recently, some members of the senior management at the Office of Historic Preservation in D.C. have considered D.C. alleys as being useful for only two things: - (a) trash and (b) service access. This is slowly changing. Ed]

"Alley rebranding projects taking place in U.S. cities often have a grassroots, organic feel to them. In the eclectic Midtown District of Sacramento, citizen-infused momentum is building around efforts to revamp these small urban spaces. The alley where Old Soul Coffee is planted is just one example of how aesthetic improvements can spur creative use of space for nearby businesses and homes. The story behind Old Soul Coffee and the rogue arterial it used to be is similar to that of a band finding an off-the-beaten-path garage space to practice in. I spoke to Jason Griest, one of the founders Old Soul, to get his take on the evolution of the alleyway as a destination point for local residents."

Old Soul’s home, Liestal Alley

"Despite their history as dark, abandoned corridors decorated by graffiti-stricken dumpsters, unsavory characters and delivery trucks, alleys are now finding value as nodes of public vitality and economic activity. These long underused passageways now represent key avenues of community connectivity and civic pride, a major component of urban rebranding efforts."


Read the full article to see suggestions about how to accomplish alley revitalization. [Ed]

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