By Shawn Regan
---- — It took more than two years, but the city has finally illuminated a downtown alley for the safety and convenience of visitors.
David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s aide, said the city installed lights in an alley next to the Barking Dog Ale House on Washington Street and that those lights were activated May 27.
That alley links Washington Street to a parking lot behind the restaurant that leads to Wingate Street. Both streets are in the busy restaurant row district known for its nightlife.
The city paid for the equipment and to install lights in the alley and the owners of the restaurant are paying for the electricity, Van Dam said. The restaurant controls the lights, he said.
City councilors have been asking the mayor since 2012 to light some of the more prominent alleys that lead from parking areas on the downtown’s outskirts to restaurants on Washington Street.
Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien began pushing for alley lights after the city enacted paid parking on the downtown’s primary streets two summers ago. One of the ideas behind the city’s paid parking program is to encourage people to park farther from the city center. Many people use the alleys as shortcuts from parking areas to Washington Street and other parts of downtown.
“I’m a little disappointed it took almost three years to light one alley, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Daly O’Brien said. “I don’t understand why some of the other owners don’t have more community spirit and don’t seem to be willing to help us out.”
Van Dam said the process of lighting alleys turned out to be more complicated than originally thought because the city had to obtain easement agreements with the owners of buildings where lights were being considered. Most of the private owners were initially unreceptive to partnering with the city on the initiative, Van Dam said.
The city also hired a consultant to determine the best locations to install lights and what types of lighting to use, he said.
Daly O’Brien said she’s hopeful the willingness of the owners of the Barking Dog Ale House to light their alley spurs other building owners to do the same.
“That shows they really care about the safety of their patrons,” she said of the Barking Dog restaurant.
Van Dam said the city has received one additional agreement to install lights in a second alley, and that officials are negotiating with other property owners to light four more alleys this summer, or a total of six in all. He said there’s money in the city budget for more lights, but that it expires at the end of the fiscal year June 30.
Lighting up the downtown
Now: One alley, the one next to the Barking Dog restaurant, is lit
This summer’s goal: Light four more alleys