Some of us are drawn to alleys out of curiosity, some of us don’t want anything to do with alleys.
Sure, there is the vision of alleys as something subterranean and illicit — foul-smelling dangerous places, or at least places where you’ll find the flip side of the good life.
But there’s a trend that’s catching on in some cities, a movement away from the notion of alleys as dark and threatening places and toward the idea that alleys can be cool, vibrant, pedestrian-friendly enclaves inside a city’s core.
It’s a movement that’s gaining traction in Colorado Springs. At 4:30 p.m. Friday you could see it for yourself downtown in the alley north of Kiowa Street between Cascade Avenue and Tejon Street.
“Come down and experience, through the eyes of a young adult, what downtown could be,” said Andrea Barker of HB&A, an architectural firm.
Barker was alluding to Leadership Pikes Peak “Leadership NOW!” class, which is organizing today’s alley event.
Class member Chelsie Reynolds said she knows “a number of 20-something friends who don’t just want to go to bars downtown. They want a place to hang out.”
Such as an alley.
Brick walls on either side, artwork displayed, a table or two — and you’ve created what Barker calls “a cool corridor, a pedestrian mall where the textures are different.”
It’s been done in Pasadena, Calif. and in Seattle. A notable Colorado example is how the Old Town section of Fort Collins has been transformed.
Initially, Baker explained, making cool alleys isn’t about spending money initially; it’s about “block-by-block cooperation. It’s people working together.”
The idea is not to turn the alleys into a Mardi Gras. “Our alleys still need to function for the businesses.”
Businesses have Dumpsters in alleys. Barker said one way to make trash pick-up less of a complication would be to persuade all of the businesses to use the same carrier.
Even then, some restaurants generate most of their trash on two or three weekend days. “In Seattle,” Barker said, “they have zero dumpsters. They do twice-a-day bagged pick-up.”
Another challenge is that “there are a lot of merchants. That’s where their employees park,” Barker said.
Getting those cars out of the alleys requires money from somewhere, because the workers would wind up parking in downtown parking garages. The good news there is the city has ample parking in those garages.
So go to that downtown alley. There will be plenty of art, some food and beer.
See how it looks. See how it feels.
Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at 719-636-0363 or firstname.lastname@example.org