Bringing New Life Into Phoenix Alleys

New pilot project could transform some back alleys into vibrant public spaces. 

Downtown Phoenix (Photo by Wisley via Flickr)

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Phoenix is the latest city to hop on the alley makeover bandwagon. The city launched a one-year pilot program last week that will allow property owners to apply to add art, lighting, seating and even food service to the city’s alleyways, KJZZ reports.

The program sets up avenues to apply for two kinds of activation: minor, which is focused on beautification through murals, potted plants and temporary seating, and medium, which allows for more comprehensive transformation. Public and private gathering areas, banners, shade screens, and food and non-alcoholic beverage service could be considered for the latter category.

The program was pushed by Councilman Michael Nowakowski, who says he was responding to complaints about drug deals in the alleyways and drawing inspiration from similar efforts in cities such as Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Property owners who want to improve their alleys need to notify other property owners within 150 feet and get city approval, with the city promising a decision within two weeks. There is also an alley activation fee of $500 and a requirement for a maintenance agreement and certificate of insurance for medium activations. Alleys from McDowell Road to Sherman Street and Buckeye Road and Seventh Street to Seventh Avenue are included in the program.

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Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at

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Tags: tactical urbanismphoenix

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