Construction on the City of Monroe’s Morgan-Windsor Alley project in the heart of Historic Downtown Monroe is in full swing. The pedestrian plaza will tie three of the City’s streets together with one central thoroughfare and meeting place for everyone to enjoy, relax, laugh and play.
Once completed, it will enhance the Downtown experience by providing an urban public space or “third” place. A third place is somewhere people spend time between home (1st place) and work (2nd place). Sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term emphasizing these are ideal locations for people to exchange ideas and build relationships.
The Alley Experience
You’ll notice major changes as you enter the newly renovated and restored alley from Main Street, Hayne Street or Windsor Street. The design includes a plaza space with brick pavers, abundant outdoor seating, green space and turf pads, art installations, and more striking features you’ll notice immediately.
“One of the really unique features that gets us excited about this project is the entrance arches,” Matt Black, Director of Downtown, said. “These incredible pieces invite everyone into the space and double as a piece of landmark art.”
The individual arches match the theme of the street for each of the three entrances. For example, if you’re entering from Main Street, the archway has a historic design and feel. If you’re entering from Hayne Street, the archway has an industrial design and feel.
“It’s uniquely specific to Monroe, honoring the City’s heritage and foundation dating back to the 1800s while embracing the City’s commitment to industry and culture,” Black said.
Improving the Downtown Experience
Another priority of this project is to enhance accessibility, walkability and connectivity, which are pillars of the current Downtown Master Plan. The alley’s T-shaped design creates a pedestrian-friendly passageway that connects business and public spaces in Downtown.
“We want to create an experience for residents and visitors to Downtown. This unique public space is designed to encourage exploration of all our local shops and provide a safe, relaxed space to enjoy their meals, their company or maybe just the weather on a nice day,” Black said.
The alley isn’t just a space for office workers or weekend warriors: It also sports a cool nighttime atmosphere with overhead lights, hanging structures, and illuminated art installations for those Instagram-worthy photo moments.
“Downtown has so much to offer such as the Dowd Center Theatre, Monroe Science Center, places to shop and dine, and now the Morgan-Windsor Alley,” Mayor Marion Holloway said. “This project shows our commitment to the residents of Monroe and our mission to strengthen the City’s sense of community and quality of life.”
City Council approved the Morgan-Windsor Alley Project back in 2020; but, just as many other projects around the country, it’s experienced setbacks brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and sky-high inflation.
“We can’t thank our residents enough for their patience during these extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank all the City workers from each department who collaborated and contributed to this project,” Black said.
The project is set to be completed this summer. Follow “Monroe, North Carolina” on Facebook for the latest updates.
This article has been updated. City Council voted to remove the small water feature at its regular Council meeting on April 11, 2023.