GREENFIELD — The sounds of a keyboard hung in the air as community members gathered for games, food and friendship in an alley normally used for little more than parking.
On Thursday afternoon, city officials planned a “pop-up party” in the alley between North and Main streets in downtown Greenfield.
The party served as a grant celebration. This spring, city officials learned Greenfield was chosen to be a recipient of a grant from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs to be used toward a community improvement project.
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The party Thursday painted a picture of what the future might bring for the proposed North Street Living Alley, a project aimed at creating an attractive space in downtown Greenfield for festivals and other events. Community organizations and members worked together to string lights, set up flowers and trees, bring picnic tables and table cloths and enjoy food donated by Lincoln Square Pancake House.
Next year, construction is expected to start on converting the alley into a space for residents to use and enjoy. Currently, it serves as a parking lot for downtown businesses.
Officials plan to use the grant money, which joins $50,000 from the city of Greenfield and about $16,000 from other groups, to plant greenery, string festival lights and make the space more inviting.
Joanie Fitzwater, zoning and planning administrator for the city, said it was exciting to see what the alley could look like in the future. Officials and members of the Greenfield Coalition have a vision for the alley, and Thursday’s party helped bring that vision to life.
The decorating was a pitch-in effort. Officials invited coalition members to bring a plant, a piece of artwork or a tablecloth to the party to help simulate what the alley might look like once the project is complete, Fitzwater said.
Thursday’s event implemented the “quicker, lighter, cheaper” technique, which many communities across the country are using to transform public spaces, Fitzwater said. The idea is to find easy, short-term and inexpensive solutions to make public spaces more beautiful and enjoyable for residents.
“We don’t have the funding yet, but it helps inspire people,” she said. “It’s important to show people what could be.”
Mayor Chuck Fewell agreed, saying the city needs community members to be involved to keep the project and others aimed at revitalizing downtown moving forward.
“We want to make sure people stay involved,” he said. “This kind of gives the feel of what we can have when it’s all done.”
The downtown alley is centrally located, and transforming it into a living alley would provide another downtown space for bringing residents together for community events and fun; currently, space downtown for community events is limited, Fitzwater said.
Designs for the alley are underway. Officials expect to receive the grant money this fall, and construction is expected to start next spring.
Susie Ripley, who works for the Office of Community and Rural Affairs and recently moved to Greenfield, said the party was a unique experience and the project is exciting for the community.
The living alley will be another amenity that will help improve quality of life in Greenfield, she said.
“This is a step back toward community living,” she said. “You need people who will spearhead it and run with it. You have that here in Greenfield.”