Alleypalooza 6 gives a facelift to Petworth’s worst alleys

DDOT contractors work on the alley off of Upshur and 7th Street NW

by Yuliya Panfil

At long last, some of Petworth’s filthiest and broken up alleys are getting a facelift, thanks to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Alleypalooza. This is the sixth phase of the city's ongoing initiative to focus on alley repair within DC, and will run from mid-October through mid-December. So far, the city has repaired more than 400 alleys through the program in the past several years.

As a 7th Street resident whose home backs out onto a particularly nasty and rat-infested alley, I could not be more thrilled. This week, bulldozers were hard at work ripping up the dilapidated mix of cement and stones behind my home, and replacing it with smooth, uniform bricks. The 7th Street alley is just one of 64 alleys District-wide that will benefit from this $8.4 million push.

Petworth alleys being updated in this latest push include:

  • 4406 14TH STREET NW
  • 3915 8TH STREET NW
  • 4910 13TH STREET NW

“Alleypalooza is especially great for Petworth because we’ve had some horrible alleys,” says ANC 4C07 Commissioner Karen Cooper. “My alley was done this summer and its made a big difference in our community, as far as using the alley and making it feel safer.”

The Department of Transportation (DDOT) is responsible for the repair and maintenance of the District’s road network. The aim of the repairs is to help improve the condition, functionality, safety and accessibility of the District's 350-mile alley network. DDOT is working in partnership with the Mayor’s Office on the effort.

Alleypalooza started in 2015 as a summer program to reconstruct and repair alleys across DC, says Jasmin Benab, liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Community Engagement. Now, it is one of the city’s biggest initiatives.

DDOT made a rather dramatic "trailer" for the Alleypalooza 6. Grab some popcorn...

Benab said the issue first came to Mayor Bowser’s attention when she was a councilwoman. Everyone was complaining about alleys. Benab says that at the time, Bowser asked DDOT how long it would take to get all the alleys repaired, and they said 40 years. She decided to expedite things, and so Alleypalooza was born.

Alleys are chosen based on need; generally residents will bring dilapidated alleys to the city’s attention, and the city conducts its own assessment to decide which alley to prioritize. 

Benab says residents appreciate the increased safety and accessibility that comes with improved alleys. She also said she’s noticed residents taking better care of the spaces, once they have been upgraded.

Cooper agrees that improving the alleys is about more than just aesthetics.

“A community improving these alleys makes the community feel safer, and more prideful," she said. “It sends the message: don’t come here and do what you want to do, because we care.”

But it’s still up in the air whether alley repair will address what Benab says is Petworth residents’ biggest concern: rodents.

More on that, and what the city is planning to do about it – next week.