Inspiring Community via Connectivity. This Is Phoenix.

Inspiring Community via Connectivity. This Is Phoenix.

It’s time for a do over of our existing alley network in Phoenix; let’s bring about a rebirth that values these corridors as critical public infrastructure for circulation and community cohesion.

This concept brought two local design firms together to share their expertise, resources, and energy to create and develop Alley Over, a theme for transforming our alley network into human-scale passageways to joyfully increase connectivity and encourage micro-economic development and sustainable communities.

The occasion that stimulated this collaboration between Julie Wolf of Thinking Caps Design and Tiffany Halperin of The Urban Culture Design Project was a competition sponsored by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Phoenix). It called for entries to “uncover, highlight and reveal the essence of Phoenix” and after several brainstorming sessions they agreed to turn Phoenix’s image as a sprawling desert town inside out by re-imaging connectivity in the urban core. Rather than being defined by its outer boundaries, Alley Over creates a new way to imagine Phoenix coming together in micro-communities by repurposing alleys as good places where people can meet, socialize, wander or play. Local businesses will benefit from new entry points while neighbors connect to coffee shops, parks, and local amenities.


A compelling public policy trend drove the advocacy behind the project. The City of Phoenix stated a desire to move services and refuse pick up from alleys to street fronts. The unintended consequence of such policy could be the creation of abandoned and non-maintained corridors. Rather than accept this eyesore and potential safety hazard, Alley Over helps envision an alternative approach where pedestrian and bike-able corridors can enhance the mosaic of our urban environment and form a connecting thread between established neighborhoods and local commercial or higher density development.

Change can be hard to inspire. It’s especially challenging to imagine how our intractable alleys can look different and function in amazing ways. So, these two design firms joined together in a delightful mashing of talents to visually bring the concept to life. As an environmental graphic designer, Julie Wolf of Thinking Caps Design has shaped the visual expression of three-dimensional environments for nearly thirty years. And Tiffany Halperin is an accomplished urban designer and landscape architect who launched The Urban Culture Design Project to bring impactful, community-centered projects like this one to life. The sum of the parts created Alley Over, catching the attention of the judges to earn second place from a field of 47 international, national and local entries in the This Is Phoenix competition – a solid “bragging rights” win from AIA Phoenix.

That victory was won with creative design and tactical support from all members of the team including Jeremiah Scheffer, Caylan Weisel and Jerry Ufnal of Thinking Caps Design and Xin Qu and Ran Wu of The Urban Culture Design Project. The collaborative team now hopes to promote the concept further among public officials and local community leaders that share a passion for creating community through connectivity.