Spring in Our Steps

Enhancing community connections in Cincinnati, by reclaiming alleys, sidewalks, and steps for the pedestrian.

SiOS opposes sale/lease of 2 West End alleys–again

To preface the following letter, which was forwarded to the West End Community Council (WECC), Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA), Dayton Street Preservation Foundation (DSPF), and Cincinnati Preservation Collective (CPC) each oppose a recent expansion plan by St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) in the West End. CPC & CPA join SiOS in opposition of the elimination of two public alleys, while SVDP & CPA explicitly oppose the existing plan in full. St. Vincent de Paul hopes to gain approval from WECC during its August meeting.

The plan calls for elimination of Porter Alley (between Garden Street & Bank Street) and partial elimination of Curry Alley (from Porter Alley eastward to the western edge of SVDP’s property) for an expanded surface parking lot, which Spring in Our Steps opposed in 2013. Three years later, the same fight has risen to the surface, this time with SVDP including plans to expand its facilities to the north side of Bank Street, occupying a sizable portion of land between Winchell Avenue & Koebel Street.

A look at SVDP’s expansions can be found below, following our letter of opposition.

View our opposition from 2013 here:



A panoramic shot of Porter Alley (left to right) and Curry Alley (center) in the West End in 2013. The existing surface parking lot for St. Vincent de Paul on Bank Street can be seen at left. This depiction would be eliminated for a surface parking lot, according to facility expansion plans.

July 12, 2016

Spring in Our Steps
1599 Central Parkway
Cincinnati OH 45202

Re: Proposed St. Vincent de Paul Expansion – Porter and Curry Alleys

Spring in Our Steps opposed The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s planned elimination of Porter and Curry Alleys as viable public land, as part of plans for facility expansion at 1125 Bank Street, either by way of paving or by excavation, for creation of a surface parking lot.

Porter and Curry Alleys bring value to the West End Community in numerous ways:
I. The historic character is reflected in their brick pavement and granite curb features, which are complementary to the Dayton Street Historic District.
II. Their presence reinforces that scale and density of development adheres to the historic neighborhood character, such as narrow & deep parcels. These constraints are inherent with the relationship between alleys and city block orientation in historic neighborhoods, such as the West End Community.
III. Numerous examples exist of public alleys without impediment or erasure—in Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Northside, and other Cincinnati neighborhoods—while serving a functional purpose in tandem with abutting surface parking lots. In these cases, alleys provide pedestrian and vehicular access alike.
We recommend that the alleys be fully integrated with design and management of the proposed surface parking lot expansion, including provisions like lighting that discourage illicit activity.
We advise against any covering with asphalt or concrete, gating and leasing, or any other alteration of Porter and Curry Alleys that would impede, reduce, or eliminate access to public land. Regular maintenance and restoration of the alley space will coincide to their treatment as neighborhood assets and components of a revitalized community.

With thanks & frankness,

Christian Huelsman
Executive Director


Concept Site Plan – St. Vincent de Paul (Bank Street) // Porter & Curry Alleys can be found where the 72-car surface parking lot is proposed. Curry Alley would be made into a dead end with an alley turnaround.

About C. Huelsman

"Stuck in the middle of this, don't know if I'm gonna make it" summarizes my internal composition at most points along my personal timeline. Sometimes, more than a little skin must be shed, in order to ensure resilience toward life's perils and mediocrity. This is where things get good.

5 comments on “SiOS opposes sale/lease of 2 West End alleys–again

  1. dieter
    July 18, 2016

    These alleys don’t seem to be used by anyone other than be a good place for drugs. You might want to be concerned about the peril of policemen that may have to go after an elusive scofflaw. When St. Vincent de Paul competes their expansion these alleys will appear more out of place than they do now.

    These alleys should be vacated and given equally to the abutting landowners. When was the last time they were serviced? I notice that you did not even sweep the alleys for your photo.

    • C. Huelsman
      July 18, 2016

      The assumption that these alleys are–and will–only be used for illicit activity is just as bad as the unfounded claims that the embodiment of these alleys are perilous environments for police et al.

      I hope you may take the time to seek out the many examples of public alleys abutted by surface parking lots in Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Northside, Hartwell, Walnut Hills, and others (namely the DT & OTR). They serve functional roles for the pedestrian and motorist alike, which is how their utmost utility volleys between them both.

      I also hope you took the second or two to notice that the photo was reposted from 2013, when we last fought this issue. The leaves had most recently fallen a week before the panorama was captured. I understand that you may see this depiction as a distress space in need of eradication, but the same happens on neighborhood streets by way of the seasons. Confined spaces have been freaking anti-urbanists for decades.

      Notice how the interest of one property owner along the blind alley, shown at the center of the block, has dwarfed any possible sentiments not shared by *other* abutting property owners. From the sale of alleys to creation of a large surface lot near, across from, and next to nearby property owners, the mere suggestion of erasure of the alleys does not even begin to address the adverse impacts that larger scale development and diminished density will have on an historic district, one that measures its value by its historic attributes and contributions larger than its whole.

      Perhaps you also read about how the alleys fall within the Dayton Street Historic District. You certainly haven’t glazed over the non-conforming use of a 72-space surface parking lot in an historic district, have you? Many cities include language in their municipal codes about the upkeep of sidewalks, alleys, etc. Louisville, for instance, has fantastic language that reflects this, as do cities like Minneapolis and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the language in Cincinnati Municipal Code does not explicitly reflect alley upkeep. However, the issue lies with lacking enforcement of the maintenance of weeds, trash, and high grass from sidewalks, vegetated public frontage (otherwise known as a planting strip) along private property, as well as *private* land that abuts public alleys.

      So, I beg to differ on the points that these alleys must be sold to the most proximal bidder, simply because the stigmatization of alleys is has hard to shake as traditional family values. The numerous precedents within historic (small h or large H alike) areas of Cincinnati, the specific nature of this case falling within an historic district, the vulnerability of urban public land as it stands, and factors concerning the private realm’s responsibility to maintain what infringes upon the public realm–they each play roles in this issue that goes far beyond the suggestion that alleys are burdensome, urban spaces.

  2. dieter
    July 20, 2016

    Are you suggesting that the abutting property owners should be responsible for the alleys? You seem to be arbitrarily relieving the city of its responsibility.

    How do you rationalize keeping the alleys so a rare soul might walk down the alley when there are street usually with 100 feet of the alley?

    As to illicit activity in the alley: are you claiming that it is rare compared to a casual stroller using the alley ?

  3. dieter
    July 20, 2016

    I made a tour of your garden area.
    Are you nuts?
    There is nothing historic except in your mind. You ought to be helping St Vincent de Paul instead of fighting them.

    • C. Huelsman
      September 18, 2016

      You’re being predatory. We can understand constructive discussion. However, the alleys (and those like it) are public space, are in an historic district, and have guided development (when reinforced as a component of the city block) to fit constraints that complement the scale of surrounding structures. Plenty of city partners, private and public, have done it the right way by including this public space in their development or redevelopment place. This is our stance. There will be no more antagonistic comments approved upon this post.

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2016 by in Alleys.
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