The University of Texas and the city are looking to change the way we use alleys in Austin, by possibly adding affordable housing in some Austin alleyways.
Today, the Austin City Council approved an $18,000 grant to fund the Green Alley Demonstration Project, which could also add other amenities to spruce up alleys in the East Austin Guadalupe neighborhood.
The project seeks to beautify alleys, similar to successful efforts in Portland and Seattle, and smaller efforts in the past to "green" Austin alleys and capitalize on urban density.
Barbara Brown Wilson of the Center for Sustainable Development says the project could address conservation issues, providing sustainable gardens that could collect storm runoff and transform an otherwise untouched alley into a community hub.
“The alleys themselves are a valuable resource that is really kind of neglected in Austin,” says Brown Wilson, “We realized we could combine the larger city questions with these questions of safety and of art and of place-making and make something really powerful.”
Brown Wilson tested these waters in a 2011, improving the walkability and installing a community garden in San Marcos Street alley.
The proposed Alley Flat Initiative looks to design and install environmentally friendly and affordable houses in Austin alleyways that make use of alley space that would otherwise go to waste, similar to a 2010 project.