An obsession with alleys began as a young boy for Paul Fast. He viewed them with wonder, imaging a world of possibility. As he grew older, however, he noticed that they were often dirty and underutilized. Now a principal at HCMA Architecture + Design, committed to improving his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, he and his firm joined forces with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and city government to transform a trio of these thoroughfares.
The public-private partnership, called More Awesome Now, began with Alley-Oop in the financial district. Receiving just a stipend, Fast, along with HCMA associate Alexandra Kenyon and architect Steve DiPasquale, applied traffic-grade paint in pink, purple, and yellow—delineating a basketball half-court and stretching up the walls—and installed a hoop. New LED fixtures ensure safety. As a result, foot traffic has doubled, with female pedestrians increasing 15 percent.
An alley behind the Orpheum, an ornate 1927 theater, is being transformed to host performances and incorporate public art funded through Kickstarter. A third alley is in the design phase. HCMA has also developed an open-asset tool kit for any community hoping to up its alley game.