Before and after – green alley

This is a good time for a before and after look at the alley next to the Green Garage. We bought the building on December 31 of 2007, and as winter made its way into spring, it became evident that something had to be done with the alley between us and the Blackstone. It looked pretty bad.

Alley before
John and Dan from Motor City Brewing Works approached us with the idea of working together to improve the alley, and we agreed, but only if we could turn it into a ‘green’ alley. They were fine with that, and so we spent about a year in design work. We designed a community space for walkers and bkiers, lined with native Michigan plants and permeable pavers to absorb the rain water, lit it with high induction lighting, and the resultant space well exceeds our initial dreams.

Alley mid summer 2011

We were curious as to what effect this improved space would have on the neighborhood. Since the green alley just celebrated its first ‘birthday,’ I can report that it has produced tremendous change, far more than we anticipated. When we are out tending to the plants, we can’t go more than a few minutes without people walking or biking through, often stopping to chat with us. Mothers bring their children through to see the plants, like Danielle and her son last week.

Danielle and son

John and Dan of Motor City developed the alley entrance of their building to face the alley, making that the main entrance.


Last weekend, in celebration of the first year of our new community space, 2 events took place in the alley. On Saturday night about 50 people joined us for a showing of a Charlie Chaplin movie, complete with popcorn donated by Good People Popcorn. Sunday night we celebrated with a community pot-luck dinner. The evening was magical.

Alley birthday dinner

I think this alley is a testament to the power of conversations. This all started with a conversation between us and the people at Motor City Brewing Works. Soon after we discussed this project with other alley neighbors, and eventually included other community members in the planning process. This was not a single-vision project, but rather the culmination of varied ideas coming from a community of people that turned this into a beautiful walkway. It’s amazing what can happen when people come together!

For more details on the alley, see the green alley pages on our site.

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