“Decatur Way…Water, Art and You,” a new, outdoor walkway and art space in Lowell’s Acre section, will open to the public during an event featuring Lowell schoolchildren, artists, neighborhood leaders, and UMass Lowell and city of Lowell representatives who helped create the new space.

The walkway, for years an alley mired with overgrown trees and brush, began its transformation in 2009 and the project gained speed after UMass Lowell opened its University Crossing student center adjacent to the site. Working together, the Acre Coalition to Improve Our Neighborhood (ACTION), UMass Lowell and the city sought to beautify and make structural improvements to the alley. The result is an L-shaped public space nestled between Salem and Merrimack streets that measures 1,200 feet long by 16 feet wide. The area features murals, poetry installations and other artwork – including drawings in pigment that is only visible when the pavement is wet – and an arbor for climbing vines. Underneath it all is a new stormwater filtration system with porous concrete that absorbs water, allowing it to return to the soil instead of pooling on the pavement where it could accumulate contaminants and harm the environment.

A model that shows how the stormwater cycle works will be on display in the space in the fall. The project is being led by Karla Cuarezma, a UMass Lowell civil engineering major from Everett, and UMass Lowell civil engineering graduate Benjamin Levesque of Swansea. Their idea for the model received a 2020 Challenge Grant, a program launched by UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney to support initiatives that exemplify the goals of the university’s strategic plan, including strengthening the college town experience in Lowell.

Speakers at the event are scheduled to include Moloney, Lowell Mayor Edward Kennedy, City Manager Kevin Murphy and ACTION President David Ouellette. Individuals who created works for Decatur Way include students from 26 local schools, UMass Lowell Art Prof. Stephen Mishol, poet Paul Marion, muralists Donald Maker and Kurt Ledoux of Lowell, and artist Liz LaManche of Boston.