Art Placement Gallery | Framing | Art Supplies tucked into the back of the Traveller’s Block Annex in downtown Saskatoon. In case you are wondering, others think that alleys could be a great place for some businesses.
“They are charming. all this ugliness could be set aside. It’s not that difficult,” said Akkerman, a professor of urban planning at the University of Saskatchewan. “For a fraction of the cost of putting a new overpass in the suburbs, you could have a beautiful back alley.”
Akkerman recently wrote a paper for Public sector Digest extolling the virtues of reclaiming downtown back lanes, turning them from areas of neglect into buzzing hubs of urban activity.
He says back alleys in the city’s business districts are a natural place for pedestrians.
Unlike the exposed street, the alleys offer a natural shelter from the elements.
“Yonge Street in Toronto.
Drugs, prostitution, all the crime is happening there. The drugs and the prostitution obviously are attracted to these back alleys because they are warmer than other places,” he said.
The alleyways are where the snow melts first in the spring. They offer shelter from the wind. On this blustery afternoon, the alley behind Second Avenue between 23rd and 22nd Streets is notably warmer. They are ideal places for businesses to open sidewalk cafés or outdoor markets.
“If a small investment was made, if this was a pedestrian conduit and there was lots of people walking here, businesses might say, ‘Hey, why don’t we have the main entrance right here instead, not from out there?’ ” Akkerman said.
The idea of reimagining a back alley as a commercial space is not foreign to this city. The Gallery/Art Placement is a commercial art gallery and art supply store famous for its back alley location between Third and Fourth Avenues downtown.
“If you go to any other major urban centre, it’s just a commonplace thing,” said gallery manager Linda Stark.
Stark says the alley gets plenty of foot traffic thanks to the plethora of law offices and parking stalls in the vicinity. A few feet from the gallery’s front door is Diva’s Nightclub, which often turns the lane into a busy hub on weekends and certain weeknights.
City planners have injected the idea of re-imagining back alleys into sweeping plans for the downtown. The city centre plan mentions downtown alleys only briefly, saying that the laneways could be converted to pedestrian pathways that would provide shelter in the winter months.