As part of the Public Interest Design Program, a team of students designed and built a prototype project for the Green Alley Initiative, a program developed by the City of Austin, the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, and the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development. This project seeks to reimagine alleys as something more than neglected service corridors for public waste pick up. Programs like the Alley Flat and Green Alley Initiatives seek to promote sustainable infrastructure in our city and affordability for residents living in a rapidly gentrifying area of Austin.
The 2014 Green Alley Demonstration Project is located in East Austin between East 8th and 9th Streets, and Lydia and Waller Streets. In conjunction with the project’s design, students garnered input from residents and stakeholders by holding numerous community events, conducting informal surveys, and presenting ideas to the Office of Sustainability, Public Works, the Center for Sustainable Development, and GAIN in order to understand community priorities in conjunction with the City’s goals. Based on feedback gathered from multiple viewpoints, the design layers existing sustainable infrastructure on the alley, in the form of rain gardens and permeable pavers, into a larger ecology by addressing wildlife habitats. With these goals in mind, the project introduces living planter boxes which contain river rock in a gabion structure and are also wrapped by cedar seats and habitat boxes.
Public collaboration continued throughout the design and construction processes with the introduction of murals along the alley’s retaining walls designed by Johnny and Nora Cisneros; two residents on the project’s site. The alley, now named “Three Sisters Alley” in honor of long-time residents, the Salas sisters, promotes healthy coexisting habitats, increases interaction between residents in the alley, and informs the neighborhood about the wildlife in their area. Through public engagement, critical consideration of sustainable infrastructure, and resourceful use of recycled materials, a lasting impact has been made on the alley that can inspire replication throughout Austin.