Detroit alleyway gets makeover into handsome pedestrian space.


Sometimes it seems half the buildings in downtown Detroit are being renovated. Now, even alleyways are getting the beauty treatment.

The latest example runs behind The Z garage, from Grand River to Gratiot, just a block or two east of Woodward.

In this case, a once-dreary — and slightly alarming — alleyway has been reinvented as a linear public space with murals, decorative pavers, a rotating art exhibit and tiny lights suspended over its entire length.

The Belt, as planners have dubbed it, is a joint project by the Library Street Collective, an art gallery backing up to the alley, and Bedrock Real Estate Services, which owns The Z. The pair also collaborated on the extensive street-art murals that adorn all 10 floors of the garage, which opened in late 2013.

"We want to make this a welcoming space the public feels is theirs," said Anthony Curis, one of the partners at the art gallery. "We think it's important to take advantage of overlooked public spaces."

The Belt will make its public debut with a party Saturday starting at 5 p.m., complete with live music and food trucks. Come spring, benches and landscaping will be added to the mix, and food and drink will be a regular feature.

On Thursday, students from the Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences were working with the Chicago-based street artist POSE, aka Jordan Nickel, to spray paint one last mural reading, "Life Long Learner." The project has chosen the school as its designated community partner.

Eighth-grader Simone Leath, working to fill up a large letter with orange paint, said she thinks The Belt is a "cool" way to soften the urban landscape and make passers-by feel safe and comfortable.


"It will make a huge difference," she said. "When you go by an alley, you don't want something trashy and creepy."

Indeed, this isn't the first alleyway to get a total makeover.

Midtown Detroit Inc. created what it calls a "green alley" that runs parallel to Canfield Street behind Motor City Brewing Works, and are almost done with another stretching from Canfield to Willis next to Shinola, according to Midtown Detroit president Susan Mosey. Two other alleys are under construction,

One of the features likely to draw visitors back time and again to The Belt will be the evolving art exhibit planners are calling Public Matter, which will be display works in five steel frames on buildings lining the alley.

The exhibition will change every four to six months, Curis said. Even cooler, each time a show comes down, organizers will donate one of the pieces to the Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences for permanent display at the school.

Public Debut of The Belt

When: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Alleyway behind The Z garage

Entertainment: Live music and food trucks

Admission: Free

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