Higher & Better Use For Downtown Alleys

Higher & Better Use For Downtown Alleys

This effort could yield some cool results.  The idea is in focus as Art Alliance Austin will feature in April an alley installation adjacent to the Austin Club.

Councilmember Tovo’s office is capturing the attention of downtown stakeholder groups, including Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association and the Downtown Commission, which has spun off a working group, for consideration of a masterplan for downtown Austin’s alleyways.

“Traditionally [alleys] are associated with garbage collection and can be associated with crime,” Tovo says “so, there’s the notion of kind of taking another look at them and really thinking about what kind of potential they might bring to our downtown area.” – KUT News

Repurposing alleys is not a new idea, and many cities around the world have embraced them as valuable real estate.

In fact, the concept for revitalizing downtown alleys has come before Austin City Council at least once before.  Back in 1971, architect David Graeber proposed repurposing the alleys behind 6th Street, from the Driskill Hotel to Waller Creek.

“By establishing cafes, boutiques, business offices and unusual shops, the alley could be a major economic stimulant to the downtown area.  Businesses could face either the alley or 6th Street, or more advantageously, both.” – David Graeber

Austin Architect, David Graeber's "Serendipity Alley" concept from the 1970s.  Daily Texan, September 24, 1971

Austin Architect, David Graeber’s “Serendipity Alley” concept from the 1970s. Daily Texan, September 24, 1971

[Image credit Art Alliance Austin/Creative Action and TBG/Dan Cheetham (Fyoog) and Michelle Tarsney]

About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of TOWERS Realty and publisher of Downtown Austin Blog (aka. "DAB"), spends his time matching remarkable people with remarkable properties in Austin’s urban core. A resident owner in downtown Austin, Jude has served on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.


  1. The skeptic in me says it’s nice that the legislators will have the choice to walk between the Austin Club and the Capitol with an art filled alley or with the common folk on congress ave waiting for their buses… I can’t think of a single other group of people that would use that particular alley. Both 9th and 10th are lacking in street level activity and even at the busiest times aren’t nearly as busy as the parts of downtown that have businesses that serve those on foot.

    Not that this is a bad idea, the traditional city bloggers would tell us about 20 feet is the right size for an urban, pedestrian street, anyway.
    I’d just like to see it in a better, more active place.

  2. Austin Healy says

    I say YES! I think it’s important to think OUTSIDE of the alley.. heh heh….Austin is a city of innovation. They should do a pilot alley similar to Royal Blue’s SUCCESSFUL parklet.

  3. A. Non Amous says

    The alleys downtown are gross places. Dumpsters, various types of “effluent” (as Fred eloquently states above), decades of baked in grime. I can’t imagine a downtown alley as any place people want to be. If the idea is sidewalk cafes, let’s focus on fixing and expanding our sidewalks.

  4. Fred Schmidt says

    Conceptually speaking this is a lovely idea. However it is impractical from a functional standpoint. Delivery trucks Downtown are routinely ticketed if they park for loading/unloading in front of businesses on the street, instead being directed to work from the alleys. The alleys are also the only sensible places to house trash and recycling dumpsters, smelly but vital eyesores that can’t really go anywhere else. And, until our Downtown finally gets some clean, lit and attended public restrooms, our alleys (between the dumpsters) are the urinals of necessity for the beer-filled bladders of the male bar crowd and vagrants. Just sayin’…

Add New Comment or Leave Reply