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Turning Toronto's dead space around: Group pitches project to revitalize alleys

Two lucky laneways in Toronto are about to get a makeover.

Thanks to some provincial funding, the Laneway Project – a non-profit focused on the potential of the city's back alleys – is looking for a pair of lanes to refurbish. Residents and businesses can nominate a laneway near them, and the winners will receive help implementing their vision and securing funding.

"We want these projects to become a model for other laneways across the city," said Ariana Cancelli, one of the Laneway Project's co-founders.

Gay Stephenson is hoping a 40-metre alley near her home on Strathmore Boulevard makes the cut. The lane backs onto Coxwell Station, but is underused due to a lack of lighting and signage.

"People don't know there's this great little access way that offers a shortcut to the Danforth," said Stephenson, who works as an economic development coordinator with Woodgreen Community Services.

Whereas some pitches include things like laneway housing, new businesses or extravagant patios, Stephenson's vision is more down to earth.

"We just want some simple things," she said. "We want it to be lit. We want it to be green. And we want it to have some signs."

Back in May, a forum was held to assess how the laneway could be used once it was refurbished. About 20 people attended, and offered ideas ranging from art murals to monthly movie nights.

"It's turning dead space into something everyone can enjoy," Stephenson said.

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