Sep 262011
Authors: Blair Carpenter

The first image that comes to mind at the mention of an alley isn’t one of brightly lit, inviting, artistic spaces, but that’s exactly what the Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority (DDA) intends to do with alleys downtown.

“The intention is to enhance the connection between CSU and Old Town Fort Collins, the downtown area and the River District,” said Derf Green, the DDA Programs Administrator. “And to make the alleys more beautiful, creating a nicer looking Fort Collins.”

The Downtown Alley Construction project has finished five of the 14 alleys involved with the project. The Myrtle alley near Cold Stone will celebrate its reopening this Friday at 10 a.m., leaving nine more alleyways yet to be completed. Each alley costs approximately $900,000 to renovate.

The completion date of the entire project is based off of the amount of funding it receives from sales and property tax.

The idea of enhancing the downtown area has been tossed around for quite a while, 20 or 30 years by Green’s estimation. But the project officially began in 2004 when the Downtown Strategic Plan, made by the city of Fort Collins, noted potential in the downtown alleys.

In 2006 a pilot project was completed to improve the Trimble Court alley on Mountain Avenue and the Tenney Court on College Avenue.
The community approved of the pilot project and the Trimble Court Artisans Co-Op; so the DDA moved forward with its plans to renovate 12 more alleys, for a total of 14 renovated alleys when the project is complete.

“To our knowledge, we’re the first city in the country to do something like this,” Green said. “Other cities are looking at this and saying, ‘wow, this is working out great.’”

Safety was a major consideration in building the alleys as wide avenues with bright strings of lights, an aim of the project was to provide pedestrian access where residents could safely walk home at night.

The impact on local businesses has been positive upon completion, and the long-term results are expected to be positive as well.

“We already get a lot of business because of how close we are to the CSU campus,” said Coldstone employee and senior music education major Shannon Costello. “But [now] when students are walking home from the bars downtown at night they’ll see us and stop in.”

Businesses such as the Clothes Pony and Dandelion Toy Store recognized the increased property values due to the project, and have already begun building displays and façades facing the alleys. Other businesses and property owners are expected to follow suit.

“There are always people hanging out and playing the piano in the back alley,” said Marisa Barney of the Clothes Pony and Dandelion Toy Store. “The other day when I was escorting some older ladies out of the store they commented on the flowers in the back and how nice it looked. It doesn’t feel unsafe at all.”
Feedback from Fort Collins residents has been positive about the completed alleys, Green said.

“Overall, everybody’s really thrilled with it,” Green said.” [There’s] just a lot of public positivity.”
For more information, or to receive weekly email updates on your favorite alley, visit:

Collegian writer Blair Carpenter can be reached at

By the numbers


Alleys renovated so far


Alleys currently being renovated


Alleys to be renovated


Total renovated alleys


Cost per alley, approximately

Source: DDA Alley Beautification Master Plan, 2008

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