Alley Activation – Reclaiming Downtown Denver’s Alleyways

Like many cities across the country, Denver is constantly looking for new ways to improve and renew its downtown core, including spaces that don’t often get a lot of thought. Long neglected and avoided alleys are now at the forefront of a movement sweeping through urban centers from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

In an attempt to make their alleys safe, clean, and usable, “alley activists” are organizing events and improvement projects designed to reclaim abandoned passageways and transform them into functional, active areas. Due to the efforts of these committed citizens, formerly desolate alleys are now host to community clean-up days, pop-up beer gardens, sustainable infrastructure, gardens, and public art projects designed to bring a new sense of life and activity to their communities.

With a focus on creating a healthy, vibrant downtown, Denver has enthusiastically embraced the idea of alley activation. Following a successful beer-tasting event held last year in Brewer’s Alley behind the Rialto Cafe, more plans are underway for future events and improvements to Downtown Denver’s alleys. The Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc., and the University of Colorado at Denver have a series of pilot concepts in development that were presented at a recent pop-up event held in an alley behind Larimer Square featuring games, music, and food from area restaurants and presentations on planned alley activation projects. Additionally, the city has plans to pave more than 150 currently unimproved alleys by 2016.