Pilot project aims to turn unsightly Iron Triangle alley into multi-use green space


A pilot project to turn a dilapidated alleyway in the Iron Triangle into a green space that acts both as a pedestrian/bicycle pathway and stormwater management system may be expanded in the future to include similar improvements in other Richmond alleys, according to the city.

The Mathieu Court Project aims to transform the alley between Barrett and Ripley avenues into what officials have termed an “Emerald Alley,” an aesthetically-pleasing, multi-use green space that will help to manage stormwater while offering safer passage for pedestrians and cyclists.

Currently the alley is in a rough state and known for cracked pavement and illegal dumping and activity.


“Mathieu Court was picked because it was one of the worst alley conditions around,” project manager Michael Williams said.

But that will soon change. At the moment, crews are working to replace an old sewer line (see the headlining photo) under Mathieu Court in anticipation of the Emerald Alley project, which is in its final design stage. Construction bids for the alley improvements are set to be advertised in October, with work aiming to begin in November or December, the city said.

A combination of transportation and urban greening grant funds are funding the pilot project. The city hopes the project will be replicated in other locations. The city is particularly looking to transform alleys that can connect people to places, which tends to rule out those with dead-ends. Turpin Street Alley just two blocks away, for example, is being looked at for similar treatment because it has direct connections to Peres Elementary School, Williams said.

The Mathieu Court project will help inform city officials as they determine the feasibility of creating multi-use green spaces in other city alleys.

“A ‘green alley’ sounds easy to say and easy to do…but we’re still learning how to balance desired goals with what’s realistic and cost-effective,” he said. “In the truest sense, it really is a pilot program.”

The program is led by Lina Velasco, senior planner in the city’s Planning and Building Department.  In addition to the initial stormwater management goals, the Emerald Alley project was partly inspired by Pogo Park’s Yellow Brick Road Project in the Iron Triangle. The community-led Yellow Brick Road effort aims to install traffic-calming measures and other street enhancements throughout the neighborhood in order to safely connect pedestrians and cyclists to schools, parks, churches and other community centers. Caltrans staff recently recommended granting $6.2 million toward the first phase of the Yellow Brick Road project.