Alleys for Neighborhoods

Bank Alley is different from a lot of the other streets Downtown. It’s not like Salina or Fayette–wide streets that are good for getting across town–and it’s not like Clinton or Adams–one-way racetracks for cars getting to or from the elevated highways. It’s short and narrow and a lot calmer than the rest of the neighborhood.

That difference makes it possible for different people to make different uses of all the buildings with entrances on both Salina and Bank Alley. Retailers on the first floor of those buildings face Salina because that’s where so many potential customers are walking by, but renters living on the top floors enter those buildings from Bank Alley because it’s more private.

A good mix of different kinds of streets and buildings makes for a neighborhood where different kinds of people can make a life. That’s a neighborhood where grocery stores can sit near houses, churches near shops, and community centers near schools. That’s a neighborhood where the variety of people and activities mean that any single person can meet their daily needs easily.

That’s the kind of neighborhood that the Gifford Foundation was talking about when it wrote that the I81 project will be:

“the best opportunity for reclaiming the geography presently occupied by I-81 as a transformational neighborhood with mixed-income housing, extraordinary schools, and facilities, programs, and services that honor the rich history of the community, reflect priorities of those who live there”

So it’s a good thing that the area around the viaduct already has so many alleys. Landmark, Block, and Grape Alleys (shown in orange) cut through the blocks just west of the viaduct.

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 6.16.35 AM

Right now those alleys aren’t doing much for anyone because they’re surrounded by empty lots, but that will change once the viaduct comes down. Earlier in November, the AIA predicted that this part of town will see a lot of new construction in the next few years. When that happens, the buildings that go up and the people who use them will benefit from the alleys that are already there.

The I81 project also provides the opportunity to reopen an alley that hasn’t existed since the viaduct went up. People have talked about reconnecting major streets that the viaduct divided, and this smaller street (shown in blue) should be part of that conversation too.

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 6.16.10 AM

City Hall is already laying the groundwork for the right kind of neighborhood with its new zoning ordinance. It’s zoning these blocks MX-5 which means no minimum parking requirements and very few restrictions on how people can use the land. That will make these alleys more useful to the neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 7.41.40 AM

It’s going to take a lot of work to make these blocks into neighborhood. Alleys can help. They add variety to the kinds of streets in a place, and they make buildings useful in different ways for different people. They can make this part of Syracuse a good place to live, and that’s a good thing for the City.