Editor’s note: The Bank Alley Social Club will host the last Urban Market event of its inaugural season this Sunday, Aug. 13. The events have brought community members together once each month throughout the summer. Read about the project in this story, originally published in May.

An alleyway in downtown Syracuse is becoming an avenue for community this summer as the Bank Alley Urban Market brings the overlooked pathway to life with vendors, pedestrians and live music. 

Mother’s Day and graduation celebrations mixed with the celebration of community and small businesses last weekend when the Bank Alley Social Club co-hosted the first alleyway event with Wildflowers Armory, the Black Artist Collective and Antique Underground.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that’s the concept the Bank Alley Social Club applied when advocating for the reconstruction of Syracuse’s downtown Bank Alley, calling attention to the beauty of utilizing the largely overlooked space. 

The Bank Alley is tucked between tall buildings in Syracuse’s robust downtown entertainment hub, near the connections of East Fayette with Washington and Jefferson streets.

Hope is growing among Syracuse residents for the city and local developers to work toward improving the space, seeing it as prime real estate that is “equally located between all the action,” said Michael John Heagerty, founder of Wildflowers Armory and co-founder of the Bank Alley Social Club. 

“They’re these urban pockets that are forgotten spaces, that are so easily transformed into cool spots,” Heagerty said. 

Part of Fayette got a facelift with new fixtures and outdoor furniture, but parts of the street are still in need of revitalization. This is what the groups are advocating for, in an effort to further restore and change the perception of what Heagerty calls a “neighborhood connector.” 

The Bank Alley may have an unfavorable reputation, but advocates, like Heagerty, are hoping the alley receives the attention and perception it deserves, as a valued space in the community. Heagerty and many other local vendors look to host more community events and beautify the space for locals. 

“When it’s looked at differently, it’s treated differently,” Heagerty said.

Cjala Surratt,  who runs Black Citizens Brigade, a vintage clothing and book business, acknowledges the aligned mission both the Black Artist Collective and Bank Alley Social Club share in their efforts to focus on the city of Syracuse and downtown. 

The Black Artist Collective partnered with the social club to ensure local black- and brown-owned businesses receive equitable allocation for events and their businesses were amplified across platforms, Surratt said.

The event presented more than 20 vendors, five of which were brought in by the BAC’s initiative. They sold a host of items from local shops and artisans, including apparel, artwork, jewelry, fragrances, pastries and handcrafted designs.

Antique Underground also held a sidewalk sale, emphasizing the community aspect and bringing the retail experience to the pedestrians.

“Now people are discovering using, co-opting, these other kinds of unused parts of our urban landscape. And, they seemed excited about it,” Surratt said.

Yet, Surratt understands there are still challenges to overcome with approval from the city, and she knows renovations are needed to improve the spaces. These include ADA compliance to enhance accessibility and increased safety measures for pedestrians, like adding light fixtures. 

“I absolutely believe that doing some of these key things will bring people into these spaces,” Surratt said.

The Bank Alley Urban Market drew in hundreds of pedestrians, some locals casually strolling in and others out-of-towners touring the city for the weekend. 

With the growing popularity of these types of events, Heagerty envisions the bank alleys to be a connector for people to utilize for dining, walking and more interactive activities like taking photographs.

“Families, dogs, moms, everyone’s strolling, and that felt really good. When it was alive, it was really nice,” Heagerty said.

In case you missed the first Bank Alley Urban Market, there’s still enough time to catch them on the following dates and stroll in:. 

The events are free and open to the public.

Bank Alley Urban Market on May 14, 2023 Timelapse video by Michael Calobrisi | Courtesy of Michael John Heagerty.

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