Alleys are an untapped local asset
March 21, 2019
Windsor, ON – United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County released a report Wednesday aimed at stimulating conversation around the potential for alleyways to become an opportunity for neighbourhood revitalization in Windsor’s core.
The report entitled, Alleyway Revitalization as a Key to Community Development in the City of Windsor, was created based on questions brought forward by residents from United Way’s four Neighbourhood Engagement Strategy partners, including Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative, Ford City Neighbourhood Renewal, Our West End, and The Initiative: Glengarry to Marentette, Neighbour to Neighbour.
The Alleyway Revitalization report examines the state of existing alleys and offers suggestions on how other communities have turned alleys into vibrant spaces that add value for residents and generate additional tax revenue or cost cutting opportunities for municipalities by re-purposing some alleys for other uses. The report also proposes City policy changes that could help to fuel revitalization efforts.
“United Way wants to continue to support building bridges between the City of Windsor and residents, and create opportunities to dialogue on issues that are important to them,” says United Way CEO Lorraine Goddard. “The report is full of positive ideas for creating neighbourhood prosperity, reducing stigmatization, improving safety, and building a connective network across our city.”
Residents tell United Way that while efforts are being made to clean up these spaces, municipal support can help people think and act more creatively. For example, city by-laws classify alleys as roads, making them ineligible or too costly for use in community events, or ongoing uses, like a restaurant patio. Proactively closing alleys and returning the land to the residents, where alleys don’t interfere with city services or commercial deliveries, could turn them into tax revenue-generating land for the City in perpetuity, making alleys more economically productive than at present.
The report recommendations were shared with the Mayor and Windsor City Council a few weeks in advance of the public release. With significant new investment in alleys by the City, starting in 2022, and other current investments being made on art projects, branding and districting, flood mitigation, and active transportation, now is the time to create an Alley Revitalization strategy to effectively deploy these investments to the benefit of residents, businesses and the municipality.
Some of the Alley Report recommendations include:
- Create more affordable housing and attract young people back to the city centre by creating laneway housing which fronts onto alleys at the back of existing properties. This increases the value of the property and generates additional tax revenue, and creates co-habitation and multi-generational living options, improved safety on alleyways, and a slower pace of development compared to new construction – provided that alleyways are properly lit and well-kept.
- Close some alleys to reduce calls for service to 3-1-1, and reduce the need for by-law enforcement and maintenance.
- Name alleys and give them a ‘place’ status (like Maiden Lane in Windsor or in Sacramento, CA), contributing to districting efforts, and highlighting the unique characteristics and history of the neighbourhoods.
- Create greenways to reduce heat islands in the core, enhance urban biodiversity (like Montreal, QC), and help to prevent rainstorm-related flooding (like Chicago, IL) - even providing opportunities for resident-led community gardens, art projects or safe outdoor spaces (like in Toronto, Vancouver, Jacksonville, FL and Middlesbrough, UK).
- Develop more commercial corridors in alleys, driving economic activity and civic uses, such as restaurant patios (like Calgary), farmer’s markets (like Winnipeg, MN), or pop-up events or block parties (like Hamilton and Aurora, ON).
- Create cycling laneways to enhance cycling connectivity across the city, and fill in gaps in the City’s forthcoming Active Transit Master Plan, when adding bike lanes to roads isn’t feasible.
- Increase maintenance and by-law enforcement in alleys.
- Better track and publically report data related to blight, crime, and dumping that is happening in alleys to measure improvement over time.
- Create separate by-laws for alleys, differentiating them from city roads, to increase potential community and commercial use.
To read the full report, visit weareunited.com/AlleyReport, or hear the voices of neighbourhood advocates at YouTube.com/UnitedWayWE.