Monday, April 13, 2009

Urban Alleys

I think we've talked about Chicago's green alleys before — especially when the stormwater flooding/Overton Park detention basin plan came to light — but USAToday has an interesting story about how cities across the country are beginning to see alleys in a new way:

"Rather than dismissing them as dark, dank and often dangerous spots used mainly for trash pickup and garage access, they're treating them as valuable real estate that can help the environment and improve city life.

Cities are getting rid of unsightly trash bins and creating things such as gardens and sidewalk cafes to attract people to these long-ignored spaces. In many cities, alleys are being resurfaced with porous materials that can absorb rainwater and reduce runoff."

In Los Angeles and Chicago, they're using alleys to reduce runoff; in Seattle, they banned dumpsters, recyling bins, and compost containers in the city center.

(Speaking of that, Memphis' Center City Commission took a similar step last fall as part of a pilot program and is actually modeled after Seattle's program. Read about that here.)

With Midtown's drainage issues, and its abundance of alleys, it might be worth looking at what Chicago's doing. I don't know what percentage of the alleys are paved and what percentage aren't, but with the storm water problems some neighborhoods experience, it would be better than nothing.

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