Creative Passageways

In many historic urban cities around the world, alleyways have been integrated into the urban landscapes, playing an important role in shaping the cultural, social and civic activities.

Alleys in some younger modern cities, however, have been viewed as service corridors between buildings, associated with crime, trash, and unpleasant for public use. How to creatively reverse this perception is the key to turn these alleys from eyesores to assets to their urban environment. By removing these passageways’ traditional role as means for commercial delivery and trash collection, many alleys have been redesigned to be a more vibrant, environmental, pedestrian-friendly, and economically viable space.

These renovated alleys enhance safety, walk-ability, promote local businesses, and engage the surrounding community. They become spaces for people - places to gather, drink, eat, play, work, hang-out and socialize. Well-kept, pedestrian friendly, and visible-to-the-public alleys promote public presence and activity, eliminating safety issues. Revitalized alleys also bring environmental and health benefits. An alley renovation might also utilize reclaimed materials in replacement of using new resources. Alleys can also be interconnected with each other to create pedestrian networks, which encourage people to drive less and walk more. Placing public transit hubs near these alley networks can also enhance walk-ability.

What are these alleys’ key design principles?

  • Inviting space with colorful and vibrant surface treatment

  • Lighting and signage

  • Environmentally responsive design with strategic trash/recycling enclosure,

  • Pervious surfaces intertwined with landscaping

  • Active ground level with community activities, combined with storefront + retail space

  • Restricted vehicle access - pedestrian friendly environment

  • Organic and engaging design process involving surrounding communities

Design elements to reviltalize urban passageways

Design elements to reviltalize urban passageways

At Propel, we are interested in finding ways to bring inspiration from around the world, to transform the alley networks found here in Portland. There is so much opportunity to transform these under utilized right-of-way corridors into community assets. We are actively looking for opportunities and partnerships to start pilot projects and activate these urban spaces. If you know of any organizations, individuals or community groups exploring how to better utilize alleyways here in Portland, please let us know. 

In the meantime, if you are interested in reading about some of Propel Studio's tactical urbanism projects, visit here.