Laneway Revitalization

Laneways are narrow passageways for either vehicle or pedestrian travel. Around the world, cities and towns are revitalizing laneways as usable space for green infrastructure, the arts, cafes & social activity. 

Benefits & Problems Addressed

"Found" space in cities: alleys can serve traditional roles (trash, deliveries) as well as gathering or commercial space.

Opportunities for greening: cites are repaving alleys with green materials and landscaping to manage storm water.

Tips & Techniques

Background: Activated laneways can be found around world. The most ambitious examples are in Australia, Japan and increasingly, Canada.

Commercial activity: Laneways can open up the sides of buildings to windows and small scale activities.  Others are good candidates for cafes in cases where deliveries and trash collection are minimal or handled elsewhere. For these areas, retrofits include lighting and drainage. Cities are also installing rooftops to form protected arcades.  Laneway management can include schedules so laneways host different activities at different times of day (e.g. mid-day deliveries). 

Housing: Canada is reviving laneway housing (also referred to as an alley flat) for detached units that face back alleys. This design activates the alley and provides separation between the main unit and the flat.

Mural art: Where alleys cannot support commercial activity, artists have large blank canvases for murals. Cities are hosting Laneway festivals to celebrate art.

Greening: Chicago has a "green alleys" program, replacing pavement with infiltrative materials (e.g., pavers, porous pavement.

Hot Buttons: Competition for non-compatible activities (food service versus trash collection) can be a problem. Commercial laneways need the same street cleaning attention as streets that host outdoor dining.  Alley housing can increase privacy between the main unit and alley flat, but decrease the sense of privacy facing the alley. 


The Laneway Project, Toronto Canada (with How-To Guides)

Laneways & Arcades, Melbourne Australia

Images: Main: Flickr/C Phoography ; Flickr/Bernard Spragg