Green Alley Research Center

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Our Alley - Off Second Ave in Midtown Detroit

This project is intended to create a model for sustainable alleys of the future for our city and region... yeah, maybe the world. One of our culture's least favorable faces can be found in our alleys. So often an alley is a visible representation of the worst of our culture...the waste, trash, urban wasteland. And yet, we long for a more respectful relationship with the earth than our alleys represent. The way we treat the earth in our alleys hurts our whole earth community. What a possibility they represent to bring new life to our alleys and make them a source of vitality and renewal to our community. What new life could the light from the sun bring forth in an alley? The people Africa imagined a different future for their alleys and they now have "alley farms" that help feed their community. A grandmother in one of the poorest, polluted areas of the world...has created thriving green oasis' in the alleys of Jakarta. Our alleys spaces have great possibilities...we need to just envision a new future and make it happen. Who knows where this may lead...all we need is one green alley...and then another.

This is the story of one alley in Detroit. It is between Canfield and Prentis off Second in the midtown section of Detroit.

Learning from Other's Thinking

  • Green Streets are covered in Christopher Alexander's - A Pattern Language. He encourages all low volume roads be paved only with stones for the wheel tracks and leave the rest to the earth below. He states "There's too much hot asphalt in the world." The asphalt and concrete destroy the microclimate...they do nothing with the solar energy that falls on them, they are unpleasant to walk on, nowhere to sit, no where for children to play, the natural drainage is devastated; animals and plants are paved away.

Learning from Other's Work

After Picture of an alley in Vancouver
Alley converted into a Pedestrian Mall in Seattle
Pedestrian Mall in Miami

  • Chicago Green Alleys Description of the great work being done in Chicago on greening their alleys. The key is the award winning Chicago Green Alley Handbook.
  • Portland's Green Streets - Excellent set of goals and benefits. Also, the 2007 Portland (Maine) Green Streets Tour Map (pdf) gives wonderful examples of what can be done...see the pictures of the Eco-lock pavers. Also, look at the city council resolution it's very good.
  • Green Alleys Filter Water - short CNN story on the benefits of greening the alleys in Chicago. Shows how the alleys are playing a new role in cleaning the water before it gets to the Lake Michigan.
  • Liverpool Alley Report This little project was part of a Masters Thesis by a man named Matthew Cocks in Liverpool. I'm including it because it shows how he worked with a resistant community to make it happen, and it also took very little money. In essence, he worked with the residents to clean up and green the alley with plants. Take a look at the report.
  • Community Greens This project deals with all kinds of shared spaces, including alleyways. Like the project above, this concentrates on adding plant material for beauty. One thing this site mentions, in addition to many others I've read, is that it may be important to put up gates if you are worried about material being trashed or stolen. Just a thought. "The mission of Community Greens is to catalyze the development of shared green spaces inside residential blocks in cities across the United States. We call these green spaces community greens. We believe that the Community Greens approach presents the best opportunity to add usable green space to our cities by converting underutilized backyards and dysfunctional alleys into functional and beautiful shared green spaces that are owned, managed, and enjoyed by the people who live around them."
  • Green Alleys Contribute to Sustainable Cities - One woman from Canada writes about loving alleys and what she feels can be done to make them an important element to sustainable cities.
  • Indonesia's Green Grandma - Video of a woman from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Jakarta teaches her neighbors about recycling, composting and grow plants....and in the process has greened her alley as part of her life-long teaching on the importance of the environment.
  • Story of a Baltimore Alley and much more - here's an alley that was adopted by a women in Baltimore ...the article has a lot resources and examples around the world of greening of alleys activities.
  • Vancouver's Sustainable Streets projects...look at the Country Lane example.
  • Study of Permeable Pavements going on since 2004 at Seneca College in Ontario. Here is an overview report.



Permeable Pavements - Design

Permeable Pavements - Materials

  • Reclaimed Pavers
  • Permeable Pavers
    Typical Permeable Paver Installation
    • Paver products from Interlock - Turfstone and Uni-Eco Stone
    • GeoSystems Porous Pavement Options also a detailed manual for the installation of Geoblock an interlocking soil stabilization-type system including estimating worksheets.
    • Enviro-grid - could be the most economical solution...supports recycling ideas
    • Terra-firm's eco-grid product as a soil stabilizer system in the center between the tracks. Made from 100% recycled plastic.
    • Green Innovations porous pavement solutions with recycled plastic.
    • Invisible Structures Gravelpave2 Product - they also do a lot with storm water management...pretty smart thinking...see Rainstore2. Local contact ... Brian Francis Phone: (313) 881-1777
    • Oaks Concrete Products, 51744 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, MI 48393 - (248) 684-5004, Fax: (248) 684-2726 and Turf-slab
      • Enviro-slab $3.22 sf Turf-slab $5.95ea (size 23.6 x 16 x 3.15 D)(30 pieces)
      • Technical guys - Dave / Mike) Sales: Scott Palmer Made in Canada.
      • Talked to Mike S. at the headquarters in Ontario Canada. he stated the following:
        • Good study of permeable pavers at Senaca College in Ontario.
        • He said that keeping the silt out of the paver aggregate openings is key. Some people sweep the area annually to keep it clean.
        • Digging deep for the aggregate base is key...its the pool that holds the water while it soaks into the natural ground water.
        • key benefit is the reduction of cost in the storm sewer infrastructure.
        • There are a couple projects using there permeable products in the Detroit area. Call Mike S. in Wixom when he returns from vacation.
    • J-drain could be used as a custom way to make all pavers permeable or help at the curb.
    • Unilock - has a series of permeable pavers. One of them is Eco-loc.
    • County Materials has two pavers: Grass Pavers and H2O Pavers The H2O page had this diagram. Here's the brochure for the H2O Product.
    • They are using Terra-firm's eco-grid product as a soil stabilizer system in the center between the tracks. Made from 100% recycled plastic.

City of Detroit

  • Municipal Code Alleys are in Chapter 50 - Articles V and VI.
  • City Engineering Division responsible for construction and reconstruction of streets and alleys.
    • Called 7/9 and was told that the Specification Detail + Detail of Standards (two book series)is being printed (50 copies) and will be available by the July 18th for $25.
    • Called 7/21 asked if the books were ready...talked to Lesley Lord..not in on Friday - July 25.

Waste / Recycling

  • Recyclean - Matt Naimi ...local recycling company
    • Matt suggested the following based on our meeting on 7/24:
      • Single-Stream Recycling approach
        • with a single dumpster that unsorted recyclables would be placed
        • locked
      • Trash
        • Can handle a compactor
        • Will calculate number and frequency of pickup for regular dumpster
      • Already handles the Canfield Lofts complex...they have recycling


Vehicle Bollards

Historical-style Bollard