A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

How about dinner in the alley?

Written January 28th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The alley between First and Second avenues, looking east from Broadalbin Street, on Jan. 28.

There’s a plan afoot to turn at least one downtown Albany alley into a place for outdoor dining. The city council heard about it Wednesday from Lise Grato, executive director of the Albany Downtown Association.

The plan involves the alley between First and Second avenues from Ellsworth to Broadalbin Street. Grato didn’t give many details, but the idea seems to be to clean up the pavement and the walls and either move or hide the trash containers.

Restaurants fronting on First Avenue would then be able to set out tables in the alley and use it as an outdoor extension of their restaurants over the spring, summer and early fall. This would be done on two and a half days per week, leaving the alley free the rest of the time for deliveries.

According to Grato, she’s been working on the idea with the Albany Visitors Association, the Republic Services disposal company, Varitone Architecture, and the building owners.

To make it possible, the organizers hope for a grant from Travel Oregon, the Oregon Tourism Commission. Grato didn’t say what the project would cost or how much of a grant the organizers seek. She did say volunteers would be needed to do some of the work to make the alley presentable.

Council members liked the idea and gave it thumbs up, though there was no vote. Later, the downtown group will ask the council for a license to occupy public space in the alley.

Grato hopes to have the project done so that that the restaurants along that block can seat customers in the alley by this summer.

Cleaning up the downtown alleys has been talked about for years. Maybe this project will be just the start. (hh)

The alley from the Ellsworth Street end.

24 responses to “How about dinner in the alley?”

  1. Bill Higby says:

    The better idea would to get ORBA to sue the governor over orders that violate the Oregon constitution

  2. Lisa Farnam says:

    There’s a lot of potential there. If something else can be figured for the trash, it could be quite charming. String a few lights, bring in some greenery. I’ve seen it done other places.

  3. John Klock says:

    That’s a great idea and I hope it could be permanent. The one good thing about Covid has been the outdoor dining in the parking lots and I hope it remains that way.

  4. Richard Vannice says:

    The surfacing of the alleys are deplorable. We have lived in albany since 1960 and can not recall anything, other than really bad pot holes, being done to repair them. It seems to me that there a number of issues, other than the ones mentioned that need to be considered.

  5. Nathan Conroy says:

    Please distribute the volunteer sign up list when it comes out! I’d love to help.

  6. Brigitte says:

    I think this is a great idea. San Francisco has/had something like this where several French restaurants did this. I believe Chicago had done this in one of their neighborhoods as well when I was still there many years ago. If done right, this creates a great ambiance for outdoor dining.

  7. Dave says:

    Shouldn’t the business be responsible for the cost of cleaning up their own building ?
    I agree its an eye sore, but why should we have to pay for it.
    Or am I missing something here‍♂️

    • Deborah says:

      The businesses don’t own the alleys. They are part of the city’s infrastructure so the businesses or property owners are not responsible for improving them. If the businesses did own them, I’m sure they would already have been turned into attractive dining areas.

  8. thomas earl cordier says:

    Lincoln County is open for indoor dining. Four of us went to Newport north to Depoe Bay last Saturday–had a great meal there. Lots of cars and crowds walking around; beautiful day. We were thanked for coming

  9. Willis Rogers says:

    Even without a rampant and barely checked virus more outdoor dining would be great for downtown. So long as they don’t pack people too tight or build pseudo-indoor eating places. There’s a few places downtown to sit and eat, but the seating itself isn’t really covered so it gets soaked and cold.

  10. Albany YIMBY says:

    This is so ridiculous, people to the alley while cars and SUVs dominate the public space. Count the cars that REALLY need to pass by first or second ave and don’t have any other alternative. Just a couple of service or delivery vehicles.

    Those two streets from Washington to Ellsworth could perfectly be for pedestrians only, during business hours at least.

    There are thousands of streets like that in Europe and elsewhere and civilization hasn’t collapse yet there for not being able to park right the place you need to go.



    Potsdam in Germany: https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/old-city-center-brandenburger-strasse-potsdam-germany-august-germany-shopping-street-pedestrian-zone-74803361.jpg

    Quebec City: https://static.wixstatic.com/media/a522c7_87ed2ce7569e4fefbcf1d5957dba31df~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_960,h_639,al_c,q_90/a522c7_87ed2ce7569e4fefbcf1d5957dba31df~mv2.jpg

  11. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Such a blighted area of downtown, even after many millions of CARA debt and spending.

    I hear there is $20M+ still left in the CARA trough.

    Perhaps that money would be better spent on blighted alleys than the un-blighted waterfront.

    Most taxpayers would agree that a positive tax increment beats a negative one.

  12. Alex Stone says:

    I love this idea. If they really did it up, with some repaving, painting, plants, and hanging lights, it would be lovely, especially in the evening. I think it would make Albany dining a spring/summer/fall attraction, and with many people vaccinated by the summer, it would even be safe!

  13. Bill Kapaun says:

    Why not repair the streets a couple blocks from the “privileged” downtown area.
    People use them a lot more than alleys and they use them year round. How many months/year would this dining hallway be used? Not that many.

    • Cheryl says:

      I agree totally!! The “streets nobody sees often” are WOEFULLY neglected and shameful. Good ole’ CARA is for downtown, BUT downtown is NOT where most of Albany spends their $$$ or time, no matter how often attempts to ram it down voter’s throats. Waaay waste of OUR TAXPAYER’S $$$. I totally understand where businesses are coming from and am heartsick at their plight :(

  14. Thom says:

    At the pace at which this will happen I believe we will have indoor dining opening up. Once schools open in March 29 everything will open. Also isn’t that a bit like blocking fire access, I mean the alleys are there for a reason, it would be tragic if something happened and there was no access.

  15. James Engel says:

    Wow, there’s been a number of “back alley” goings on in our cities mostly for nefarious activities. But dining out….OOO. K… back alley dining. With the garbage cans left there the patrons could bus their own table. How about Gov Marshmallow realize it’s not the gyms, it’s not the sit down restaurants, ..it’s just people in general in public places w/o a mask on that’s spreading this COVID. That includes churches! Well, I survived the polio deal in the 50’s so I guess I’ll survive this.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “””it’s just people in general in public places w/o a mask on that’s spreading this COVID. That includes churches!”””

      That’s a part of what went wrong. I don’t know if it’s 5% or 75%. But you can bet that a clear, consistent message from the ex-president, instead of his exploiting it as a partisan issue, would have helped a lot.

      Church-spread example: the big, early spike in cases in the little town near La Grande (Island City, I think).

  16. Scott Bruslind says:

    I know the alley from Ellsworth to Lyon. I was riding my bike on the last Saturday before the election. I had gone down to the Linn County Democratic Party office to say hi to Graham, et al., and I was headed to Corvallis to my kids’ place. I wanted to swing by Little Wuesten to catch up with Liz Bobe, and caught her catching a smoke. She gave me a nice lunch and took me and my bike to Marysville. Not only that, but I got the low down on the fascinating life of Joe Rae Perkins.
    Priceless. All in favor of sneaking down alleys. Never know what will happen next. Have to hide the dumpsters behind palm trees like the old off-shore oil derricks at Huntingdon Beach, CA.


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