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From Dumping Ground to Destination – Making Better Use of Alleys

Friday Jan 23, 2015 - Comments: 0

The ‘Green Alley’ concept has been around for a few years now, and metro areas such as Chicago, Baltimore and Seattle have already incorporated them into their sustainability designs. 


For those that aren’t familiar with these models, there purpose is to make alleys functional, transforming neglected or unkempt spaces into natural habitats and using them for renewable enterprises such as storm water management. 


A similar project in Los Angeles –The Avalon Green Alley Network Plan – is taking the Green Alley concept one step further with a plan that offers social returns as well as physical health benefits. The plan is to convert alleys into attractive places for neighbors to play, socialize and get exercise.  They are providing safe routes for alternate travel, such as biking and walking, which Green Alley organizers hope will decrease the number of cars on the road.  The project also includes sustainability features such as light-colored, lightweight surfaces that resist heat absorption and help cool surrounding buildings. Overall, the plan supports a comprehensive approach to improving neighborhoods, protecting the environment, promoting good health and increasing community connections.


After many years of planning, the Avalon Green Alley Network Plan is finally being launched this year.  If successful, it could have a substantial effect on urban Los Angeles; the city has almost 900 miles of alleys.  An expansion could have huge social, health and environmental benefits.  


Metro areas with extensive alley networks like Los Angeles have a real opportunity to capitalize on the Green Alley model.  Adding trees and simple upgrades can increase green space and boost neighborhood property values.  Alley projects can also transform blight, create opportunities for social connection, support healthy lifestyles, increase safe zones for alternative transportation, and decrease energy consumption, providing real benefits to individuals and the community as a whole.


Residents may question whether it’s possible to transform a space usually associated with garbage and vandalism into an area to socialize and play. In time, however, they may come to realize that alleyways are indeed under-utilized, and will be glad to start thinking of them as assets instead of liabilities.


What’s happening in your neighborhood?  Are alleys used for creative purposes?  Can you imagine ways to improve these spaces?


Click here to read the Next City article that inspired this blog.


Also consider some of the work NeighborWorks affiliate Chinatown CDC is doing in this space with their Adopt-An-Alleyway Youth Project


For more information on the Green Alley model, consider Green Alley Programs: Planning for a sustainable urban infrastructure?, a 2012 Elsevier report that examines alley projects underway in seven cities, and contrasts them with the more comprehensive approach embraced by Los Angeles. 


Photo with Graphic Courtesy of Content Object Design Studio


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