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Fischer: Let’s make a dark alley pact to revamp underused urban spaces

By Jen Fischer - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Sep 8, 2023

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Jen Fischer

Nothing good ever happens in alleys or parking garages. Traditionally known as dirty, odorous and crime ridden, these urban spaces have come to earn the reputation. From Jerry’s bout with uromysitisis while lost in a parking garage in the hit series “Seinfeld,” to the mugging and murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents in Gotham, many dark and unpleasant happenings take place in such settings. Why then, pray tell, do I find myself strolling down dark alleys and perusing parking garages whenever I have the opportunity?

This interest began quite by accident one winter eve while making my way back to my hotel from the popular San Francisco piers. While most people waited for the trolley or took a cab (this was before the days of Uber or Lyft), I decided we would hoof it back. By we, I mean myself and my three young daughters. Most of it was downhill anyway, and there was literally no way to get lost if we just followed the path of the trolley. However, since I was sure I knew a shortcut, we did end up “lost.” In fact, we found ourselves in more than one dark alley in the middle of San Francisco, late at night, with the most intimidating of us being myself; all 5-foot-1 and 95 pounds of me. Although we made it safely back to the hotel that night, my head was swimming with possibilities for these fascinating spaces.

The past week, we returned from a trip to Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail. Tucked in the nooks and crannies along this trail are few parking garages but a plethora of alleys. In fact, packed into 0.13 square miles, there are some 40 alleys to be explored. Some of the streets, especially in the Italian district, are paved with brick and stone, and the unique décor on the sides of these buildings should have an audience.

Historically, alleys were intended for deliveries that could be received directly to the kitchen areas on the ground floor of homes or storefronts. This left the front of the home completely free of service areas. Today, alleys primarily serve as places to store trash cans or dumpsters. Most of these narrow streets are riddled with garbage and reek of urine and skunk weed. While the alleys used to be owned by each property owner, the poor maintenance and condition became a public concern, and the city of Boston took them over. Unfortunately, this has not changed anything.

There are plenty of unique alleys in our very own city of Ogden as well. These spaces could be part of a city’s landscape, if properly cared for and not neglected or forgotten. Alleys can be functional. Not just for dumpsters, drug deals and thugs, but for potentially aesthetic corridors that attract more people, portray safer spaces and engage more activity. This, in turn, strengthens business operations and the entire city’s economy.

Although alleys are often too narrow to function for traffic, they are perfect places for pedestrians to walk, visit, relax or play. There is so much positive potential with these spaces, both parking garages as well as alleys. Through landscaping improvements, organization and community input, there is fascinating potential. As an imbiber of all things real estate, that is, perhaps, one reason I am drawn to them. Another reason may date back a bit further when my childhood crush, Robert Redford, playing Bob Woodward, in a clandestine meeting in a parking garage, met the informant Deepthroat and broke open the Watergate scandal in “All the President’s Men,” proving that good things do happen in parking garages and alleys after all.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com.


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