I walked by Bank Alley the other day on the way to work, and thought to myself, ‘What a great space. I wonder what more will come of it?’ Then I walked by an hour later and saw a few cars parked down its core. I don’t think that’s what it was intended for…
The concept of Bank Alley is fantastic. It’s a much-needed open walkway for people to convene, take a break from work or walk through to get from Jefferson to Washington Streets without having to round each block. It makes the downtown look and feel cleaner.
But something is missing. Yes, we have three times as many light poles, park benches, trees and greenery. The brick pavement looks modern and smooth. The million dollar project is both an aesthetic and infrastructural improvement to the street as part of Syracuse’s Save the Rain campaign. But the changes don’t seem to be enough to attract people. This is a distinctive urban space that begs for movement, attention and a little touch of character.
The first section of Bank Alley is complete (Jefferson to Fayette) and the second section (Fayette to Washington Street) should be finished next year, according to the Downtown Committee. Now that it’s halfway completed, how can Bank Alley start to be used as a social gathering place?
I can think of a few ideas.
Imagine hosting a spring equinox party for all your friends in downtown’s new linear hotspot. Picture a live band, champagne and stringed Christmas lights hanging all the way down the alley to set the mood. There may even be dancing!
Speaking of Christmas, what if Bank Alley became a miniature light display during the holiday season? Parents could take their kids for leisurely evening strolls down the street after dinner in Armory Square, picking up hot chocolate from Café Kubal and meeting at the end of the tour for a crazy family photo complete with Santa hats and white mustaches. Even though it’s just one street, Bank Alley could turn into a maze full of glowing reindeer, waving snowmen and elves throwing gift boxes at each other. I’m so serious about this.
Halloween just passed, but next year we could consider having a pumpkin carving contest throughout the city. Artists’s could sculpt one-of-a-kind designs to be displayed in the alleyway and the final products could be judged during a fun event for charity. We could even host a Trunk-or-Treat in the alleyway – minus the trunks. Groups could set up booths or miniature displays for kids to experience and hunt for candy. Heck, there could be an Easter Egg hunt in this space.
Suffice it to say, Bank Alley has major potential for national holidays. I won’t even touch on the Fourth of July. Burger grilling competition, anyone? You get the idea.
For a more permanent approach to animating the street, the space could serve as a must-see tour stop of the city’s best public art. Bank Street’s alley walls are perfect for organized street art, historical murals or as backdrops for 6-foot tall sculptures that are scattered along the sidewalk.
The point: If people are going to come to Bank Alley and stay, let’s give them something to look at. Let’s also give them somewhere to sit. Right now, there aren’t enough benches to host professionals who need a mid-afternoon break from their desk job. Think of putting in moveable metal tables and chairs so people can relax and claim their own space to read or sip on coffee. This would also be a great space for local food trucks to gather during lunch hour.
I’m certain Syracuse is already looking for ways to activate the space. It may be tough to get activity going during the winter, but as I mentioned above, there are a few ways to get people outdoors and hanging out downtown.
I hope to soon be invited to an event that transforms this former-dumpster holding alleyway into a versatile and unrecognizable place for me to listen to local music in the summer or watch an outdoor movie with friends.
Bank Alley – I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.
*Ballard Construction began repairing damage from the water main break in Bank Alley near Fayette Street on Monday. Cars can’t access the road via Jefferson Street at the moment. Repairs should be finished by Wednesday or Thursday.