Long viewed, depending on your view, as a nuisance and/or a unique asset, many in the Foster-area neighborhoods have debated on what to make of our alleyways. On one side of the fence (no pun intended), alleyways pose a privacy and security concern to residents whose backyards become witness to a wide array of public use (i.e. dirt bike courses, parking spots, graffiti, trespassing, etc.). Others, and it’s not mutually exclusive, see the great potential of our network of alleyways and view them as an asset. I’ve heard people suggest they be used for urban hiking trails, community gardens, public art, or just a way to enlarge your backyard by extending fence lines.
But what a task all that can be, especially when it would involve consent from the city and your neighbors, as well as the creative energy and manpower to see it through. Not everyone’s as easily discouraged as I am, however, and a group of folks on the south side of Foster are bringing the concept of alley gating/greening to the neighborhood. Evolving mostly from crime deterrent techniques, alley gating has been popular in the UK for years, and has now grown into a way for communities to take ownership of their neighborhoods, as well as a means for placemaking.
In that same vein, neighbors of the SE 63rd-64th alleyway, between Foster and SE Schiller, are hoping to turn an unused stretch of weeds, gravel and dirt, into a shared garden and common space.
As part of this year’s Village Building Convergence, the placemaking arm of City Repair, residents in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood will be attempting to make use of their alleyway to better their neighborhood and create a greater sense of community. While most of City Repair’s placemaking sites are usually on streets, sidewalks, or more visible to the public, the plan off of Foster brings a new dimension to the placemaking event, and brings a whole new realm of possibilities for our miles of alleyways.
Here is the description of the project, dubbed “Alley-Oop:”
“During this VBC’12, we at Alley-Ooop in our Mt. Scott/Arleta SE neighborhood are be- ginning a multi-year project which is currently unprecedented in Portland to increase community engagement, reduce crime, and represent a radical approach to neighbor- hood stewardship and shared space: Alley-Gating/Alley-Greening!
The project site is a block-long alleyway adjacent to Fosterville ecovillage where there is energy to improve the neglected area towards a useful shared garden and common space that is embraced by the community.
Come join our design charrette and explore the questions, concerns, legalities, and pos- sibilities raised by the radical concept of AlleyGating and Greening. Build a micro-garden with us in the alley! We’ll be joined by VBC keynote speaker and expert soil-builder Nance Klehm to get inspiration and feedback about our composting a soil-building ca- pabilities in this public space. What else will we create?!
Gather with our neighbors, designers and facilitators. Come experience this neighbor- hood engagment model and educational, inspirational Placemaking process.”
This presents an amazing opportunity, not only to get involved with something innovative and beneficial to the neighborhood, but to run with an idea that can be transformative and truly great. The next gathering for this event will be May 27, from 2-4 p.m. For more information or to get involved, contact Sarabel Eisenfeld: 610-804-6656.