TROY – The first block of Franklin Alley, a stretch filled with 16 commercial trash dumpsters lining either side of the street and graffiti, is going to get a makeover that’s projected to bring visitors and life to what normally is a dark shortcut.
The city, nonprofits and businesses are investing $358,200 to make the 20-foot-wide alleyway between River Street and Broadway a pilot project for what can be achieved throughout downtown’s alleys.
“Alleys are unsung urban resources. With an alley there’s this kind of great second city,” said Barbara Nelson, an architect and executive director of TAP, Inc.
Troy’s investment in the “Franklin Alley Pedestrian Path” will bring it into the realm of Seattle, Chicago and other cities where alleys have a reimagined public life that goes beyond serving as corridors for trash pickup, utilities, access to garages and traffic shortcuts.
The city wants Franklin Alley to be a bright, inviting passage for pedestrians that has artwork and stimulates the soul and mind in the one-block journey. Plus there could be further uses for the alley.
“Rededication of the alley to the public realm through physical improvements, installations and impromptu programming such as street performances, café seating and special events,” is how the city’s project page describes possible uses.
The Troy Local Development Corp. voted unanimously at its January meeting to seek a $100,000 grant from the city’s Capital Resource Corp. to cover nearly one-third of the costs for revamping Franklin Alley.
“It’s a mess. It’s not nice. It’s half potholes. Our goal was to clean it up,” Scott Townsend of 3T Architects said about the alley in a presentation to the TLDC board.
Revamping the alley is “something you could feel good about,” said Steven Strichman, a TLDC member and the city’s commissioner of planning and economic development.
Plans call for removing the trash dumpsters by facilitating more frequent garbage pickup, putting in lighting, repaving the roadway and sidewalks and installing murals by artist Joe Iuarto.
“The alley will be converted into an active public space and public arts greenbelt,” the grant application states.
“It’s a “great pilot project,” said Strichman. “We are not going to every alley.”
Troy has about 43 miles of alleys throughout the city. The plans for the “Franklin Alley Pedestrian Path” estimate that public space downtown could be increased by 15 percent to 20 percent if the city reclaimed its alleys.
The Arts Center of the Capital Region obtained a $100,000 grant to pay for the installation of Iuarto’s murals in the alley. Nelson said TAP is working on the architectural and construction logistics with the arts center.
“Public engagement is a key component of this effort. We’re envisioning the Franklin Alley project as a demonstration of best practice for placemaking,” Elizabeth Reiss, CEO of the arts center, has said in comments posted by the arts center describing the effort’s public art aspect.
Mayor Patrick Madden said he has seen the impact of revitalized alleys during a visit to Quebec City. He said the renovation of Franklin Alley could have the same positive influences for downtown.