Ashoka's Community Greens helps residents, government leaders, and citizen sector organizations come together to develop incentives and policies that catalyze the development of these new urban commons. With assistance from Community Greens, citizens merge their backyards, transform alleys from blighted spaces to community places, and give life to vacant lots in a manner that is sustainable and systems-changing.

The mission of Community Greens is to catalyze the development of shared green spaces inside residential neighborhoods in cities across the United States. We call these green spaces community greens. We believe that the Community Greens approach presents the best opportunity to add usable green space to our cities by converting underutilized backyards and dysfunctional alleys into functional and beautiful shared green spaces that are owned, managed, and enjoyed by the people who live around them.



Community Greens was able to create a sizable amount of impact from 2003-2009 when the program was the most active

  • Spearheaded a state wide legislature in Maryland, which changed the City Charter which allows the city to lease and gate alleys to homeowners.
  • Started the Alley Gating and Alley Greening pilot project in Baltimore in 2006. Local ordinance passed in the City of Baltimore in 2007.
  • In 2009, there were 3 completely gated and greened alleys in Baltimore and over 70 applications from interested neighborhoods.

Ashoka's Community Greens also took time to measure the impact that the Alley Gating and Greening Initiative is having in the Baltimore area. With the guidance of the University of Maryland and College of William and Mary research faculty and with the help of volunteers from the University of Maryland and John Hopkins, ACG carried out sociological surveys to determine the kind of impact that the Alley Gating and Greening Project was having.

Preliminary findings showed that:

  • ALL the people in the retro sample said that their alley and neighborhood had become ‘better’ after the alley gating and greening.
  • The three most used words by the retro sample to describe the gated alley are: Clean, Safe and Attractive.
  • People who moved onto the blocks with the gated alley mentioned the presence of the alley as an incentive to move into the neighborhood.
  • People living on the gated blocks found that there is constantly a lack of parking space on the main street as people from other blocks come to park in their street, due to an increased perception of safefy.
  • A significant number of the people living on the gated neighborhood use the gated alley for parties, as a safe playground for kids and a place to walk their pets. A great sense of community has been created.
  • Except for a couple of instances of relatively minor thefts (which the people attribute to negligence on behalf of the neighbors who forgot to lock the gate), there were no reported cases of major crimes in the alleys

Ashoka is looking to restart the Community Greens initiative, using its past success as a basis. We hope that you will join us!

How Community Greens Have Transformed Communities

Find accounts and examples of how the Community Greens program have transformed communities in the Baltimore and Greater Washington, DC area

Alley Gating and Greening: The Baltimore Story and How CG Began

How the Patterson Park neighborhood created wonder out of an alleyway, and How Community Greens Began
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I thought it was a great idea to gate [the alley] and to try to get people to look at it in a different way. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but afterwards I realized it was a great community-building project because you got to know your neighbors through the meetings or just knocking on their doors and asking them to donate money to buy the...

Patterson Park Resident