An often overlooked piece of an urban community’s infrastructure is the alley. Alleys once provided a great deal of service, but have since fallen out of use in some areas due to an ever-changing urban form and demographics.

In Northside, neighborhood leaders there have begun examining their alleys as part of a mission to “Clean Up, Green Up and Light Up” the alley network in Northside. In September 2009, planners inventoried the surface types of 24 alleys in Northside.

“In the beginning of our talks I researched alleys and what other cities were doing,” said Lisa Auciello of the Northside Community Council about the neighborhood’s early efforts to discover what could be done with the alleys.

Auciello described Chicago’s Green Alley Handbook as being a great example on how to cut down on crime in alleys by providing additional lighting and encouraging citizens to use the alleys more frequently in creative ways.

Boswell Alley Restaurant has a beautiful herb garden in their alley that the cook uses daily, and we have found that some residents are also planting flowers in their alleys,” said Auciello. “Our Citizens On Patrol Program is going to “Adopt A Spot” through Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and our spots will be a couple of the main alleys off of Hamilton.”

Alleys have long provided critical access to hard-to-reach urban areas throughout Cincinnati, and as the city redefines itself it will become increasingly important for neighborhood and city leaders to continue to examine how we treat this significant part of our urban landscape.