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Creating Spaces

Madison city officials explore options
for repurposing alley for tourism

Grant money is funding effort to develop alleyway

(August 2014) – A group of about 30 Madison, Ind., city officials and business owners are working to generate ideas about how a new alley dedicated to art and tourism would be developed and used in downtown. This “stakeholders” group in the new grant-funded Alley Activation Project met July 15 with representatives of the architectural firm Gresham, Smith and Partners to discuss the project for the alley, which has been selected as the one between Subway Sandwich Shop and the former Joeyg’s Restaurant and Nightclub.

Alley

Photo by Jenny Straub Youngblood

This alley between Subway and the former Joeyg’s Nightclub has been selected for use in the project.

They reviewed three potential designs:
• The first concept is considered an event alley and consists of a large single space that would incorporate a distinct archway for the entrance, string lights and raised planters.
• The second concept is called a gallery alley, which would entail the space being separated into three areas that could be used for different events concurrently. This design again employs a signature entrance as well as bench seating, canopies and possibly a mural.
• The third design is comprised of several small spaces intended for informal gatherings. This plan could accommodate groups or individuals and uses bench seating, planters and distinctive pavement design.
All three proposals are intended to improve the overall appearance of the alley and turn it into a functional space that attracts and encourages more people to spend time in the downtown area, according to Jon Henney, representing Gresham, Smith and Partners. Henney called the endeavor an “exciting project that makes you want to get up in the morning.”
This meeting served as an opportunity for business owners and residents to ask questions and voice concerns regarding the project, which was made possible when the City of Madison was named a recipient of a $100,000 “Place-Based Investment Matching Grant” by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. These grants are intended to improve the quality of life and tourism in communities by developing “unique community gathering places.” Madison matched the $50,000 with $50,500, which came from donors Vectren ($10,000), Community Foundation ($1,500), Board of Tourism ($3,000) and Main Street Program ($1,000).
The alley was chosen based on numerous factors. Details that made an alley a prime candidate such as interesting facades and architectural interest were weighed against issues that could cause problems such as structural troubles, or a conflict of use. For example, if an alley is commonly used as a thoroughfare or as access for residents, this would lower the likelihood of that alley being chosen. 
Reaction to the proposals were mixed. Some business owners expressed concern that the beautified area may fall prey to vandals or become a hang out for a negative element. Henney said these concerns are being taken into account. His team believes that steps can be taken to address these concerns. Another concern was in regard to parking and the lack of guidance available to tourists regarding available parking off of Main Street.
Mike Sewell, of Gresham, Smith and Partners, explained that the renovated space will naturally draw attention to the additional parking available at the end of the alley at Mulberry and Second streets.
Lucy Dattilo, who owns the downtown business Something Simple, is optimistic and said she thinks that some of the concerns expressed by interested parties will resolve themselves as the project progresses. “It seems like common sense. The more an area is improved, the more people will want to visit.”
Dattilo said that increased visitors will mean increased revenue for local business, translating into a higher probability of improved public services. “Utilizing space for optimal success will breed more success.”
Wayne Spears of The Trading Post, a Main Street business, echoed these sentiments by saying that any improvement to the city is a positive thing. 
The public meeting closed with an invitation for attendees to proceed to an area that was set up to allow individuals to design their own alley. This invitation for ideas continues, and all concerned citizens are encouraged to visit www.VisionMadison.org in order to complete an online survey. Also available on the website is the slideshow presentation that was presented that evening.
The final concept will be available to the public in mid August, according to Andrew Forrester, Director of Community Relations for the City of Madison. Feedback from the public meeting, as well as comments from the online survey, will be considered in the development of the final concept design, Forrester said.

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