Residents look to revitalize neighbourhood alleyways

Hamilton’s older urban neighbourhoods have one defining feature: alleyways. Ward 3 alone represents 37 per cent of all alleyways in Hamilton, the largest percentage of alleyways in any ward. While they offer easy access to homes and businesses, alleyways have grown to be the site for illegal dumping, overgrown vegetation and drainage problems.

Green Venture is looking to change that. Beginning with the GALA (Gibson and Landsdale Area) neighbourhood hub, the organization wants to clean up and repurpose alleyways in the neighbourhood, a task that seeks to engage GALA residents. The GALA neighbourhood has a population of more than 7,700 residents and is geographically bounded by Wellington Street North, Main Street East, Sherman Avenue South and the CN rail line. With a dual purpose of restoring natural diversity and inspiring communities to reconnect urban landscapes to nature, the Alleyway Revitalization Project taps into these local assets and builds upon local knowledge and connections.

Supported by an HCF grant, this community-led project starts by identifying potential project locations in GALA. Consultations with residents are held to review possible site plans and design options. Community surveys and consultations determine how the spaces will be improved.  In the process, residents propose alternate uses for a public alley, such as a marketplace, green space or for other community events. The goal is to reclaim alleys as public places.

There is a clear need for this project. Stormwater runoff can result to flooding, erosion and sewer overflows. Flowing rainwater over pavements also picks up polluting materials, leading to water quality degradation and compromising human health and safety.  This project includes removing some of the concrete and asphalt in alleyways and replacing it with native plants, trees and shrubs to reduce runoff, recharge groundwater supply and reduce the heat island effect.

Collaboration and partnerships with local organizations, such as the Conserver Society of Hamilton & District, the Social Planning and Research Council and the Hamilton Community Garden Network, ensures that the project draws on the expertise and assistance needed. With a year-long plan in place, Green Venture expects to affect and involve 200 people in the GALA hub. A maintenance plan will ensure sustainability and long-term care of the space after the project has ended.