Vibrant alleyways are beneficial to health, community development, and the environment. Transforming dark, unsafe, unattractive, and underutilized alleyways such as Wall Street, an alley in downtown Chandler, into a livable public space presented a unique opportunity for people and businesses to thrive. By encouraging walkability, promoting social interaction, and implementing creative street design elements, the “Waking up Wall Street” project became a true asset to Chandler’s community. This conversion also aligned with the City of Chandler’s goals to enhance its downtown identity and Maricopa County’s efforts to mitigate heat and improve air quality.
To inform and improve the alleyway’s redesign project, a demonstration week (“A Week of Wall Street”) took place from March 17 to March 23, 2022. This mini-transformation event was an opportunity to (1) showcase and test street design ideas, such as temporary shade structures, seating areas, creative spray chalk art, and mural art; (2) foster positive relationships with community members while gathering feedback; and (3) raise awareness about pedestrian-friendly places. Data collection methods included surveys and focus groups, which were conducted online and in person during the event to increase community participation and get feedback from hard-to-reach populations. Overall, about 100 people shared their perceptions of the Wall Street alleyway, assessments of the proposed design elements, and thoughts about how to create pleasant places to walk.
Though Wall Street is frequently used to access main streets such as Frye Road and Chicago Street, results showed that Chandler’s residents and visitors viewed the alleyways as an unpleasant, unsafe, and uncomfortable place to walk, especially at night and/or during summer months. The factors fueling these perceptions included lack of shade, lack of lighting, and car traffic. Given the region’s hot, desert environment, the general public recognized shade as a critical element to create a cooler public area to walk and proposed the addition of natural shade through trees and vegetation and/or shade structures, such as umbrellas and shade sails. In addition, Wall Street’s lack of lighting increased perceptions of unsafety and limited the use of the alleyway for recreational purposes. The community suggested that nighttime ground and/or string lighting would be helpful to make the alleyway more dynamic and welcoming. The findings also showed that additional landscape design elements were needed to transform the alleyway into a pedestrian-friendly space. These elements included public water fountains, stamped concrete pathways, street crossings, underground utility lines, and highlighting the city’s history and culture through art.
In addition to their valuable input on the Wall Street project, focus group participants shared best practices to boost community engagement, including (1) involvement of different populations (e.g., non-English speakers, minority groups, and the elderly); (2) use of various modes of outreach (e.g., workshops, email lists, and flyers); (3) increased number of engagement events; (4) incentives to show appreciation; and (5) partnerships with local, community-based organizations. These strategies could be applied to future projects in Chandler and other cities for meaningful community engagement.
City of Chandler
July 2021-December 2022
Healthy Urban Environments