Skip to main content

Gentle Density – The Rise of Alley Infill Development

Midtown has been and continues to be a premier destination to live due to its walkability, wide array of entertainment and arts, and incredible culinary scene. Since 2017, Midtown has experienced an influx of residential developments entitled and under construction, which supports those that want to live in the urban core. While many of the projects are large scale, mixed-use developments there is another development style that has seen a rise in Midtown that embraces a gentler, neighborhood sensitive growth.

Cities across the nation are looking at gentle ways to increase density in their communities. In places like Sacramento that includes making a concerted effort to encourage the construction of accessory dwelling units, rezoning single family zoning to allow up to fourplexes, and something more unique to the Central City – the construction of alley facing developments.

The Central City in Sacramento is commonly known and represents a grid pattern that is essentially 30 blocks by 30 blocks. Between each block moving north to south there are alleys that extend from Old Sacramento through Midtown to the Alhambra corridor. In total, alleys represent approximately 37 miles of roadway in the urban core.

In their original intent, alleys were looked as mostly utilitarian by nature, which typically house some of the most basic services of city life. Buildings were built in a way that almost always faced the street front, and activation of the alleys was nonexistent.

Today, alleys represent a world of possibilities and serve as a crucial part of the housing affordability question our city faces. In recent years, the city has developed design guidelines to help encourage alley activations with businesses. One of Midtown’s first and prime example of alley activation is in Liestal Alley between 17th and 19th streets, which includes Old Soul Coffee, porous concrete pavers for better stormwater management, and better lighting and landscaping.

Now alleys offer a new opportunity with the development of residential housing on what are often time single family lots in less dense parts of the urban core. Many of the lots in Midtown’s neighborhoods of Boulevard Park, Marshall School, New Era Park, Newton Booth, and Richmond Grove offer historic homes that stretch 160 feet from street to alley. Property owners are taking advantage of these deep lots by adding housing facing the alley that not only brings a greater density to the urban core, but also brings more attention and activity to often forgotten spaces in the alley.

Sacramento needs to develop housing product of all types from large scale multi-family apartments, to accessory dwelling units and of course alley infill housing. This gentle way of adding density utilizes small underutilized pieces a land that can feature duplexes, fouplexes and up to eight or ten units without offending the character of Midtown’s historic neighborhoods.

 

The next time you’re walking in Midtown think about cutting through an alley to find one of these hidden housing projects. You might be surprised how many you find. Snap a photo of your favorite alley infill project and tag @exploremidtown with the #alleyinfill for a chance to be featured on our social or in our newsletters.