A man shoots a basketball at a hoop installed on the wall within Alley Oop while a large group of people gather around him. The alleyway ground and walls are painted pink and yellow.

Vancouver’s Awesome Alleys: Five-Year Strategy

Vancouver's Awesome Alleys is a five-year strategy to reclaim more laneways as public space and create a vibrant, interconnected network of alleys in downtown Vancouver. The vision is to transform these neglected corners of our urban grid into interconnected places of wonder and play, bringing more people to the downtown core and creating an iconic new attraction for Vancouver.

A collaboration between Downtown Van and hcma, the work dates back to the early and continued success of the More Awesome Now Laneway Activations. With Alley Oop and Ackery's Alley as the catalysts, Downtown Van commissioned hcma to develop an action-oriented strategy that will spark future laneway transformations over the next five years.


Areas of impact

People dancing with the interactive light display at Ackery's Alley
Alley Oop at nighttime during a fundraising event. People fill the alley while purple and pink lights flood the walls and twinkly lights hang above them.

Vancouver's laneways make up 30% of public space in the downtown core. Transforming them into places for people could dramatically change the landscape of our urban realm. We know these laneways have the potential to become truly awesome public spaces—because we've already made it happen.

Since their transformations in 2016 and 2018 respectively, we've witnessed Alley Oop and Ackery's Alley become beloved community destinations further animated by Instagram photoshoots, basketball tournaments, and public discos, not to mention everyday foot traffic.

Using these past successes as the prototype, the Vancouver's Awesome Alleys strategy identifies a series of other laneways suitable for transformation. It prioritizes laneways along Granville Street and Hornby Street to enhance key pedestrian corridors between established public realms: from the waterfront, seawall, and cruise ship terminal in the North to Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery in the South.

Map illustrating the network of future alleys, including current Awesome Alleys and those prioritized for transformation. The alleys marked have callouts with photos of their existing state. For those untransformed, the photos are in grayscale, while the photos of transformed alleys are in colour.

Downtown Van and hcma plan to transform 2-3 of these laneways within the next five years. These transformation efforts will help to quickly realize a compelling network of Awesome Alleys downtown, and further solidify these spaces as places for people, integral to Vancouver's unique urban fabric and identity,

Implementation of the strategy depends on two parallel streams: transformation and activation. Transformations facilitate a reimagined use of space through physical change, but the continued success of these alleys is only possible if people can reliably inhabit them. Intentional, consistent programming of each Awesome Alley with public and private events will ensure their vibrant, people-friendly nature is retained for years to come.

Following in the footsteps of places like New York, Melbourne, and Tokyo, the strategy presents an opportunity to elevate Vancouver on a global scale through a dedicated commitment to supporting and enhancing urban life. Home to vibrant, immersive experiences that activate the city in unexpected ways, Awesome Alleys draw in residents and visitors alike, further asserting Vancouver's reputation as one of the world's best cities.

Explore the potential of Vancouver’s urban alleys—download a copy of Vancouver’s Awesome Alleys: Five Year Strategy.

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