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Improving Neighborhood Aesthetics

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Architecture students inspire community members to help revitalize Troy’s alleys. Photo by Kris Qua

On May 6, more than 100 participants from the community joined architecture students in Rensselaer’s Community Planning course on a walking tour of the Williams Street alley in downtown Troy. The tour was organized by the students to inspire and promote a revitalization of Troy’s alleys as neighborhood resources.

The students organized the event — called “Up Your Alley” — to mark the culmination of two semesters spent researching and developing proposals, in consultation with the community, to better utilize and care for the alleys in Troy and other cities. Their proposals for reuse of neglected buildings, re-population of commercial spaces, innovative parking and trash enclosures, and public and private recreation spaces were posted on the garage doors, buildings, and fences along the alley route.

Using paint, a brush, and a number assigned to them at the beginning of the tour, participating community members helped fill in seven paint-by-number murals prepared by the students at various locations along the four-block alley route.

“This project has the potential to make a real positive splash,” says Barbara Nelson ’80, an adjunct professor of architecture who co-teaches the Community Planning class. “Our hope is that neighborhoods in other towns will pick up on our idea and implement it in their own areas.”

Rensselaer’s Community Planning course allows students to interact directly with residents, professional planners, urban advocates, and community leaders to explore neighborhood revitalization through various community-based initiatives.

A free guidebook of ideas for alley revitalization was distributed during a book-release party in mid-June. Called Alley Improvement Project 2006, the book features ideas, plans, cost estimates, and sources of help and materials for parking, garage, low-maintenance landscaping, lighting, and safety and security alley enhancement projects.

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