From 'forgotten places' to 'gathering spaces': City announces 4 new locations for Arts Alleys

The Detroit News

Many alleys in the city over the years have become "havens for illegal dumping," and a city initiative aims to turn those "forgotten places" into arts-focused gathering spaces.

Rochelle Riley, the director of the Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship, announced four more new locations for the city's Arts Alley initiative during a news conference Wednesday at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit's North End, which will be home to the city’s first "Agri-Arts Alley." The three other neighborhoods announced Wednesday include Airport Subdivision, Jefferson Chalmers and McDougall-Hunt.

Rochelle Riley, director of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship for the city of Detroit, announces four new Arts Alley locations that will be redeveloped into community gathering spaces during a press conference Monday at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in the North End neighborhood.

The new alleys join previously announced alleys in the Old Redford, Schulze, Jefferson Chalmers, Northwest Goldberg and Southwest Detroit neighborhoods. Construction on the first set of alleys is expected to begin this summer.

The project, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and Knight Foundation, aims to spur neighborhood revitalization, mitigate localized flooding, support local artists and showcase a neighborhood's creativity, Riley said.

"Neighborhoods are going to be able to tell their own story so people for decades and decades will know who was living where and what it was like," Riley said.

As executive director of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, Jerry Ann Hebron is excited about North End being the city's first "Agri-Arts Alley. The neighborhood is already home to a vibrant arts and agricultural scene. Last year, it was the site of the inaugural BLKOUT Walls Mural Festival. There's also a farmers market, a cooperative greenhouse and the Black Bottom Garden Center.

"This has been a dream of our work for years, to be able to bring more people into the North End and to hopefully spur development along our Oakland Avenue corridor," Hebron said.

The alley between Goodwin St. and Oakland Ave. can be seen during a press conference at the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, in Detroit, March 29, 2023. The city announced four new Arts Alley locations, including this one, that will be redeveloped into community gathering spaces.

The city has cleared 2,000 alleys in its campaign to fight blight, said Jessica Parker, the city's deputy chief operating officer.

"For decades, alleys are forgotten places in our city that became havens for illegal dumping and overgrowth," Parker said. "In addition to the 2,000 alleys we are clearing, these Arts Alleys will turn several of them into beautiful and unique gathering places for neighbors for years to come."