A Sustainable Design Internship led me to spend summer 2018 in Montréal. I’d lived there years ago, and still went often to visit friends, but spending a chunk of time living and working in the Mile End neighborhood was different. I was able to really appreciate the level of art and music and food and community. It just spills out of big open cafe windows, onto sidewalks from store doorways, and off of apartment terraces. Frequent streets closings ( I counted one 9 blocks long), to hold street fairs and festivals. Public sitting areas along sidewalks- hunks of street parking repurposed into little terraces with benches and nooks and plants and free wifi. Seeing all the ways the city lent community support and was working with the residents was pretty eye opening and lovely.
And then I started stumbling onto these back alleys- that weren’t really back alleys… One was so developed and park like I hesitated for a good while- looking back and forth and wondering if this was someone’s backyard or if I was allowed to walk through. Eventually I noticed the “Ruelles Vert” signs for these “green alley’s” and figured out what they’re all about. Why aren’t more cities doing this?!
The initiative has been growing over the years, and now includes 400+ alleys, over 40 miles, that weave through many neighborhoods in the city. The city works with the residents, granting permissions and sometimes financial resources. The neighbors work together to create and maintain the spaces- some are backyard gardens, some geared towards kids. It’s pretty simple and pretty brilliant.
reduce the urban heat island effect
enhance biodiversity/ increase wildlife and insects in the area
improve air quality
reduce stormwater runoff
provide a safer place for kids to play
create bonds between neighbors (or at least interaction and learning opportunities)
“… the alleyway has created a sense of community and, “by meeting all the neighbors, you feel much more secure together.”” *
(*Source/ article: globalnews.ca)