August 18 2008

'Community Greens': Greening Baltimore's Alleys

Aerial showing some of Baltimore's Alleys

Above is an aerial photo of Baltimore showing some official green space and some potential alley green space - in green - quite a web if coordinated to work together!

'Community Greens' is an organization which supports the 'development of shared green spaces inside residential blocks in cities across the United States' by taking the stand that 'best opportunity to add usable green space to our cities [is] by converting underutilized backyards and dysfunctional alleys into functional and beautiful shared green spaces.' Through the organization, a community can get assistance or help seeking out community organizers, legal advice, and design services relating to any work they wish to do 'greening' their space. Also available are a number of case studies which chronicle the past and current efforts of communities organizing themselves to create shared green space. The results of these green makeovers are amazing.


Above is a 'before' photo of Baltimore's Glover Alley...

One amazing alley conversion is located on Glover Alley in Baltimore. The pictures above illustrate the evolution from rat infested alley to shared green space. It is important to note that this project is one of the first to be carried out using the resources of 'Mayor Sheila Dixon's' Alley Gating & Greening Program which allows gating and greening to 'promote public health, safety or welfare. The benefits also include extra play area for children and a place for neighbors to congregate. The potential environmental benefits are many and include a better tree canopy, less storm water runoff due to impervious surfaces, reduction of the urban heat island effect, and increased biological diversity. Residents in the Glover Alley projects herald it as a way to escape and soften the paved city outside.

Community Greens_Image 09

Above is an 'after' photo showing new low fences, a gate, plantings and community seating

Did you know that Baltimore has over 600 miles of alleys!

Community Greens_Image 06 by Teresa Duggan David Pinn Raquel FuaOn a personal note, I see this as a way to maximize the potential of cities, rather than an effort to suburbanize them. Look at Copenhagen and Amsterdam, centuries old urban centers with well established populations, for examples of what cities can look and feel like here in America. Even more modern developments like the redevelopment of Hammarby Sjostad in Stockholm show the character of well planned shared green space. Greening unused space should be a priority in our cities. The alternative, allowing land to sit vacant and fallow, is wasteful and does not exploit the potential of our urban centers.


For more information please visit the Community Greens website or the City of Baltimore's Alley Gating and Greening Program website. Alley greening has also been featured in great articles by Metropolis, The Atlantic Monthly, and Baltimore's Urbanite.

Community Greens is an initiative by ASHOKA.

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1 Comment

April 7th, 2009 at 10:22 PM

Craig Curtis

Hello I think this is a great idea. Although i do see one set back. currently i live on a block and i have the only Garage on my alley. How do you give space and allow access for people who do Park and use an garage.