Thomas Dougherty: Turning Alleys into Productive Space

Today’s story is about alleys, specifically, how much potential and possibility they hold. While they’re typically just used as a place to park your car or stick your trash cans, alleys are also a space where kids can safely play, where flowers can grow, and, perhaps, where new homes can be built.

That’s how Thomas Dougherty sees it. Dougherty grew up on a farm in Ohio, where he developed an early appreciation for, as he says, “getting his hands dirty,” and being a builder. Later in life he had the chance to visit the Netherlands, where he got a taste of traditional urban neighborhoods and design, and a real feeling of “home,” even though he was far away from his community of origin.

Dougherty recently finished a masters in architecture and the focus of his thesis was how to turn alleyways into productive space, especially for accessory-dwelling units or ADUs. He sees tremendous potential in the “human-scale” of alleys—their narrow lanes, their intimate proximity to peoples’ homes and the innate safety that comes from a cozy, enclosed space. This week on the Strong Towns website, we’ve been running a multipart series by Dougherty outlining the history of alleys and their potential future as places for more life and housing. We’re glad to share this interview featuring Dougherty on The Bottom-Up Revolution podcast (hosted by Rachel Quednau) with you today.

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