City’s alley experiment wins neighbors’ approval - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

City’s alley experiment wins neighbors’ approval

March 27th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
City’s alley experiment wins neighbors’ approval

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Some Chandler residents got a taste of what life might be like if the city made alleys more pedestrian friendly.

And the city figured out what the biggest issue will be going forward: Parking.

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from Healthy Urban Environments, the city temporarily converted Wall Street between Frye Road and Chicago Street into a pedestrian walkway for a week. The alley runs between Arizona Avenue and Oregon Street that also the entrance to The Perch restaurant.

The grant was split among Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Pinnacle Prevention and the city.

The city plans to convert the Wall Street alley into a pedestrian-only space in fiscal year 2023-24 and John Owens, the city’s downtown redevelopment specialist, said the grant gave planners a chance to do a trial run before they make the conversion permanent next year.

“The city has always viewed alleys as an opportunity,” Owens said.

Deborah Salon, an associate professor at ASU, said the main issue they kept hearing about was parking. Cars that pulled into some lots were having a difficult time turning around without access to the alley.

“Some of the things we’re interested in feedback about, is to what extent does the closure to cars mess with local business, parking, and otherwise uses of the alley,” Salon said. “We definitely discovered people are uncomfortable in this parking lot.”

She was speaking of The Shops at Wall Street parking lot, which is directly across from City Hall.

Owens said some of the other alleys being considered for possible transformation in the future are near California Street near San Marcos Place and Washington Street south of Frye.

Kenneth Steel, the healthy communities project manager for Pinnacle Prevention, has been running focus groups with residents to get their feedback on the Wall Street transformation. He said removing cars from the area is a good idea because it’s not safe.

“Our business used to be right here on this corner, you would see people flying around the side without pausing to be able see if anyone’s walking,” Steel said. “When you’re walking here, usually you have to look over your shoulder. Usually you have to stay to one side. And where there are blind spots, you have to be cautious.”

In addition to getting feedback about the Wall Street transformation, Steel also asked his focus groups about other areas of the city where alleys might be transformed.

The city put the Wall Street transformation into its capital plan for next year. That is currently the only alley targeted for transformation into a pedestrian space. It won’t be cheap.

“The full project is undergrounding all the utilities, which costs a lot of money, repaving everything, doing full landscaping, so it’s a little daunting how much money you got to put in,” Salon said.

Steel said the feedback changed. At first, people didn’t understand what was happening and were mostly upset at the potential loss of parking. However, opinions began to change as the transformation took place.

“Where initially we were getting people kind of frustrated, now we’re seeing people walking with their families and they don’t have to hold their child’s hand anymore,” he said. “They can roam freely and check out what’s going on and enjoy it.”

Steel said parking is the biggest issue.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from some of the businesses – most of the businesses are totally fine, they get it, they understand more foot traffic means more patrons at their businesses, but of course the initial concern right now and into the future is how to make sure people can still park here, and get in and out safely. That’s something that we’re feeling some tension on right now.”

He said they will take that information and let the city know what did work, and what didn’t as they move forward with their plans to transform Wall Street into a pedestrian walkway.

“When we go to design it, this will help,” the city’s Owens said. “We don’t often get a chance to try projects before we design them.”