“I have some initial reservations about the streetscape plan but I will hold those back until I’ve had a chance to talk with the local residents, the RHCDA and Rosemann Architects. I want to congratulate everyone involved for finally getting a project to this point – I look forward to working with them to see it to fruition.”
The following drawing was included in the post.
Privately I shared my reservations about the pedestrian circulation.
Unfortunately I can’t locate the somewhat harsh email I fired off. However my criticism focused on 1) the decorative brickwork and the fact pedestrians couldn’t maintain a straight line as they walked down the street. The green areas were to be planters. Â These would have created tight points where pedestrians tried to cross the streets. Â Remember, this was 17 months prior to the stroke that disabled me.
The planters and the ramp placement would have forced all pedestrians (able-bodied & disabled) to zig-zag at each intersection. At the time I had no idea how annoying such intersections would be from a wheelchair but I did know the concept was not pedestrian-friendly.
In June 2010 I was glad to see my criticisms had been observed with the design now permitting all pedestrians to maintain a straight line as they walked from one block to the next.
I’m so glad the completed design permits the disabled in wheelchairs to use the same pathway as the able-bodied. Â All have lots of room, all can stay on a direct path. Â Nobody is pointed into the center of the intersection with angled ramps. Â This is how pedestrian-friendly business districts should be designed.
Unfortunately many of the new streetscapes being installed in other areas Â do not have the same direct path for pedestrians.
A year ago. I was starting my Capstone (thesis) for a masters in urban planning & real estate development at Saint Louis University. My focus, I decided, would be on pedestrian malls – once open streets permanently closed to vehicular traffic.
Last fall I documented roughly 160 such malls built in North America between 1959-1984. Documenting the year removed, if so, proved far more difficult than I thought. The Capstone remains unfinished.
On Friday, while driving to Chicago, I realized I should narrow my focus to the ten former pedestrian malls in the state of Illinois. A manageable number where I could collect and examine data.
So far I’ve visited Chicago (State Street), Elgin, Freeport, Rockford, Danville, Champaign, and Decatur. Last night stayed in Springfield and I’m checking out their former pedestrian mall this morning. I skipped Oak Park (inner ring Chicago suburb) because I visited there l last year. That leaves only Centrallia left to visit after today.
In visiting each of these I was amazed at how different each town is today. Big & small, college & industrial, rich & poor. Besides the failed pedestrian mall experiment, each town looks to have been repeatedly raped by urban planners, civil engineers and architects.
– Steve Patterson
[Note: This post was written on my iPad with a photo from my iPhone. Not all editing features are easily available, but I hope to produce more posts this way.]
This past Saturday I participated in the first of four planned “Open Streets” events in St. Louis.Â I went from my loft at 16th & Locust to Forest Park.Â Most doing the route were on bikes.Â Some were jogging while others were walking, some pushing strollers.Â I did the 10-mile round trip in my power wheelchair.
I had a good time, took 140 pictures and saw many people I know but I have mixed feelings about the event.
Hundreds, if not more, participated in the event.
People got out and biked in the city, exploring areas they might not have seen otherwise.
People were active and physical.
I met and talked to strangers.
Reinforces the false notion that you can’t bike safely on urban streets with cars.
The city is off the hook for the poor condition of the sidewalks and a lack of accessibility.
Much of the route has very little traffic most weekends anyway.
Cars got through in too many places so it wasn’t truly car-free.
At Sarah & Lindell the traffic signal remained on it despite the fact cars had only one option. The signal should have been placed on a all red flash.
In the past such events led to the creation of pedestrian malls where cars are banned 24/7 and people usually stayed away as well.
Saturday May 1, 2010 from 8am to 1pm several streets in our city will be car-free:
This first of four events opens five miles along Locust and Lindell for you to enjoy. That’s right, car-free City streets!
Open Streets is a FREE community event. You’re invited to take to the streets to walk, bike, visit other neighborhoods, rediscover the City and experience the Great Rivers Greenway’s Bike St. Louis routes.
Three activity hubs located along the length of the route host a variety of fun activities – aerobics, zumba, hula-hooping, yoga, walking tours and safety and health demonstrations.
Open Streets promises to be interesting. I’ll participate –seems silly not to given that I live on the route:
My concern is events like this will lead to calls for the creation of new car-free pedestrian malls.
Friday I asked for help with information on 60 former pedestrian malls (see post).Â Readers responded with helpful information.Â Today I’m sharing my complete list of cities that have or had a pedestrian mall built during the period 1959-1984.Â Â A few cities are listed twice because they had two pedestrian malls.
For my purposes a pedestrian mall is the at least partial closure of a commercial street to vehicles.Â The “semi” mall permitted traffic but on-street parking was significantly reduced or eliminated.Â Most were in the downtown area but in larger cities they could be found on neighborhood commercial streets such as St. Louis’ North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall (currently being removed).
I now have 134 malls in 136 towns and cities.Â A couple of sources I have made reference to (nearly/almost/over) 200 malls built.Â Â These sources never document this 200 number.Â So part of my research is simply to verify how many malls were actually built during this 25-year period.
Here is the list in alphabetical order by city name (italics = removed; bold = intact; red= need more info)
Ann Arbor Michigan
Atlantic City New Jersey
Auburn New York
Battle Creek Michigan
Buffalo New York
Cape May New Jersey
Coos Bay Oregon
Des Moines Iowa
East Lansing Michigan
Fargo North Dakota
Fayetteville North Carolina
Fort Lauderdale Florida
Freeport New York
Greenville South Carolina
Greenville North Carolina
Hallifax Nova Scotia
Iowa City Iowa
Ithaca New York
Kansas City Kansas
Lake Charles Louisiana
Las Cruces New Mexico
Las Vegas Nevada
Lebanon New Hampshire
Little Rock Arkansas
Miami Beach Florida
Michigan City Indiana
Monroe North Carolina
New Bedford Massachusetts
New London Connecticut
New Orleans Louisiana
New Orleans Louisiana
New York City (Brooklyn) New York
Oak Park Illinois
Palm Beach Florida
Paterson New Jersey
Poughkeepsie New York
Providence Rhode Island
Quebec City Quebec
Rock Hill South Carolina
Saint Charles Missouri
Saint Louis Missouri
Santa Cruz California
Santa Monica California
Schenectady New York
Sioux Falls South Dakota
Spartanburg South Carolina
St. Cloud Minnesota
St. Joseph Missouri
Trenton New Jersey
Vancouver British Columbia
Washington District of Columbia
West Chester Pennsylvania
Winston-Salem North Carolina
I believe most, if not all, of those listed in red have been removed with the street re-opened to traffic.Â I may just need the year it was reopened.Â Â Â I have no doubt that over 200 were proposed.Â Built?Â At this point I don’t think so. If you know of others that are not on this list please share.
Some cities, such as my home town of Oklahoma City, built pedestrian malls after 1984.Â These tended to be very different.Â In the case of Oklahoma City they dug out a street in their old warehouse district to create a canal.
The topic of my capstone (thesis) for my Masters in Urban Planning is the pedestrian mall.Â I’ve taken on the ambitious task of documenting every pedestrian mall built in North America between 1959-1984.Â So far I have documentation on 135 pedestrian malls created during this 25-year period.Â Of those I know the current status of 75.Â I believe the 60 that remain on my list have all been removed.Â Some of you out there reading this post have knowledge about some of these.
For my purposes a pedestrian mall is a formerly through street that was converted to a pedestrian zone.
I’m looking for the following information:
Year opened (if not listed below)
Length (measured in blocks)
Width of right-of-way (measured in feet)
Street that was closed for the mall (from street to street)
Did the mall have fixed canopies
Year street reopened
Although you are all very knowledgeable, for academic purposes I could use links to sources such as newspaper articles, organization/city websites and such that have the information I seek.
Alphabetical listing by city (mall name, city, state, year opened):
Hamilton Mall Allentown Pennsylvania 1973
Ann Arbor Michigan
Lexington Mall Baltimore Maryland 1974
Downtown Mall Centrallia Illinois 1970
Neil Street Champaign Illinois
City Center Mall Coos Bay Oregon 1969
Stoneplace Mall Dallas Texas 1965
Vermillion Park Mall Danville Illinois 1967
Landmark Mall Decatur Illinois 1970
Town Clock Plaza Dubuque Iowa 1971
Downtown Mall Erie Pennsylvania 1974
Fargo North Dakota
Franklin Commons Fayetteville North Carolina
Las Olas Boulevard Fort Lauderdale Florida
St. Clair Mall Frankfort Kentucky 1974
Downtown Plaza Freeport Illinois 1968
Central Plaza Galveston Texas 1971
Downtown Greenville Mall Greenville North Carolina 1975
Coffee Street Mall Greenville South Carolina 1975
Pratt Street Hartford Connecticut
Progress Place Jackson Michigan 1965
Downtown Mall Lake Charles Louisiana 1970
Courthouse Plaza Monroe North Carolina 1973
Walnut Plaza Muncie Indiana 1975
Parkway Mall Napa California 1974
Downtown Mall New Bedford Massachusetts 1974
Captain’s Walk New London Connecticut 1973
Plaza Park Mall Oxnard California 1969
Main Street Mall Painesville Ohio 1973
Worth Avenue Palm Beach Florida
Parsons Plaza Parsons Kansas 1971
Main Street Mall Paterson New Jersey 1975
Chestnut Street Transitway Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1975
Liberty Place/Gallery Place Washington District of Columbia 1976
Complicating matters is how a pedestrian mall was defined.Â A full mall was completely closed to all vehicles except emergency vehicles.Â A transit mall, like Denver’s 16th Street, allows transit vehicles.Â But then we have the murky waters of the “semi” mall – vehicles are allowed but little to no on-street parking is.
For example it is possible that East Park Central East in Springfield, MO (above, map) was considered to be a semi-mall at the time.Â Or Springfield had a completely closed street that was their pedestrian mall?Â Given the fact that Lawrence Halprin did the adjacent Park Central Square I’d say they did label the above a mall.
I’ve been here several times.Â The most recent was last year.
OK, 59 left. Wait, not so fast.Â I found a document (PDF) from the City of Springfield that indicates the original plan was all four streets entering the square would be pedestrian malls and in 1979 they were reopened.Â But other evidence suggests traffic was never barred from the Square.Â So it is 60 — I’m still unsure how to classify Springfield, MO.
I’ve visited other places on the above list, such as Parsons, KS.
Parsons, KS had a “full” mall on Main Street and concrete canopies over the sidewalks.Â Today they once again have a more traditional street design.Â The canopies were partially destroyed by a tornado – I just don’t know the year.
I’ve sent out requests for information on many of the above but only a few have responded.Â I got an email back from one town in the Northeast that said their mall remains — a 24 foot wide alley behind their main shopping street where vehicles were banned.Â Not sure I get the point of that one.Â A car-free alley is better than a street with cars?
It is too early in my research to talk findings or conclusions.Â I have been surprised by the number of these malls that remain.Â If you have knowledge of these please share in the comments below or email me.Â My graduation is 3-weeks from today.
Main streets across this country, from big cities to suburbs to small towns, have been abused by urban planners over the second half of the 20th Century trying to find the right formula to reverse the exit to the edge.
In big cities you had white flight and schools as explanations for flight but in many small towns these reasons didn’t exist.Â They didn’t have the mall on the edge of town drawing customers away from main street.Â They had only the single school district.Â However, many had Wal-Mart pulling customers out of the existing downtown’s.
The “solutions” were almost universal from big city CBD‘s to suburban areas to small towns.Â With some exceptions these all failed:
One-way traffic – charming main streets were turned into high speed roads to get through town.Â See Collinsville IL and many others.
Elimination of on-street parking – Saw this in Springfield MO.Â A street where you could drive through but you couldn’t stop and shop.
Pedestrian mall – a few have done well but most separated remaining customers from remaining stores.
Indoor mall – an alternative to the open-air pedestrian mall is the enclosed indoor mall.
Removal of projecting signs – main streets were cleansed of unique signs.Â Projections were viewed as a bad thing.
Uniform signage – uniformity was considered an asset. All businesses were encouraged to have the same font & size.
Concrete canopies – numerous towns were sold the idea of uniform concrete canopies over the sidewalks.Â Beautiful facades were bisected.
Modernize facades – cheap modern materials covered detailed old storefronts.Â Sometimes the original facade can be restored but often they are damaged beyond repair.
Structures over roadway – Salina KS has 4-5 open grid structures over their main street.Â Adds nothing but a dated look.
Parking in rear - Many towns built excessive parking behind main street buildings.Â With new rear entrances the street out front became useless.
Visuals of some of the above, all coincidentally from Kansas towns:
Agree?Â Disagree?Â Have additional “solutions” to add to the list?Â If so, use the comments below.
St. Louis will soon see the North 14th Street Pedestrian Mall go away.Â It will become, simply, North 14th Street as it was prior to March 1977. Cities all over the country have gone through similar projects to undo what was largely a failed experiment conducted by planners.Â Often these car-free pedestrian zones quickly became pedestrian-free zones.
In 2007 I learned of Atchison Kansas from Bonnie Johnson, assistant professor in urban planning at the University of Kansas, in nearby Lawrence Kansas.Â Unfortunately I was unable to visit Atchison KS on that trip.Â So what is so compelling about a town of 10,000 people on the bank of the Missouri river?Â Their downtown pedestrian mall.
Last week I finally made it to Atchison Kansas to see it for myself.Â I knew in 2007 they were preparing to update the pedestrian mall.Â Not remove it, but update it.Â Â This town embraces their failed pedestrian mall.Â The update is now complete.
The pedestrian mall is 3 blocks of Commercial Street just West of the Missouri Mississippi River (view in Google maps):
The mall has it’s origin in disaster:
Atchison became known as â€œthe city that refused to dieâ€ after rebuilding from two flash floods that swept through the downtown in 1958. The devastation of the floods hastened the replacement of many of the oldest commercial buildings and led to the construction of the pedestrian mall that today is the heart of the downtown district.Â (source)
But worse than cutting off traffic in front of the storefronts are the concrete canopies running along both sides of the mall:
The above picture was from before the current remake.Â They had the perfect opportunity to reopen the street to traffic and more importantly to remove these horrible structures.Â Instead they got new sidewalks and benches:
The grass is green and the trees are mature.Â The hard surfacing underfoot is no longer dated looking.Â But those ghastly concrete canopies remain:
In decades past planners tried to create a uniform look for commercial areas — much like the new open-air suburban malls would have.Â But as you can see the former bank building, center above, is ruined by the canopy passing in front of it.Â Big surprise, it is vacant.
Many of the storefronts are vacant or at least appear vacant. It is hard to tell because they all have entrances off the rear alley behind the buildings.Â One active business had a sign on their mall entrance directing people to the alley entry.
So customers arrive and park in one of the parking lots behind the buildings (above) and then enter the rear-facing entrance (below).Â Brilliant plan!
Above is the same alley in another block.Â On the left the trucks are parked in “front” of an auto parts store with another parking lot on the right.Â The Commercial Street entrances are secondary to the rear alley entrances.Â They had the chance to undo this mistake but instead they put in new sidewalks and street furnishings.
The cross streets have always continued through so if you are walking the mall you encounter traffic just as you would if you were walking along a normal street with traffic and on-street parking.
The blandness of the uniform canopies and signage is the opposite of what makes for a vibrant street — varied awnings, storefronts and signage.
Atchison City Manager Kelly DeMeritt:
DeMeritt looks forward to the renovation of Atchisonâ€™s open-air, pedestrian mall built in the 1960s. â€œThe mall will give a huge economic boom to our retail district,â€ she says. â€œIt will be the last piece of the puzzle that really will finish the downtown.â€Â (source)
Economic boost?Â Finished?Â Translation: another 40+ years of unrealized potential which is a pity because Atchison is a cute town.Â DeMeritt is younger than the mall.
Just up the hill to the North of downtown is a great old neighborhood.
Small town commercial districts can be quite charming.Â They can also get screwed up to the point they no longer funtion as they should.Â But rather than admitting a prior decision was a mistake, they throw good money after bad.
As a general rule I prefer spaces that have pedestrians, cars, bikes, scooters, and transit all balanced and mixed.Â Spaces with large numbers of pedestrians but none of the others are rare but pleasant when they do occur. But car-free spaces without pedestrians are boring.Â Spaces dominated by the car to the point that pedestrians & cyclists are absent are horrible.
Soon we will see crews doing to St. Louis’ North 14th Street what I saw yesterday in the town of Rockford Illinois:Â ripping out a tired pedestrian mallÂ (Map).
Crews began ripping out the two remaining blocks last month.
There were 48 retailers, restaurants and salons on the mall when it opened in 1975. Today only two of those 48 are still there. Five years later, in 1980, retail establishments on those four blocks were already being decimated as shoppers flocked to shopping centers and the CherryVale Mall that opened in 1973. Â (source)
The same story can be told in places where the mall was seen as the way to lure shoppers away from new open-air & enclosed malls in the suburbs.Â Rockford appears to have been on the cutting edge with efforts to revitalize their downtown.Â Cutting edge planning has been destructive to cities and their downtowns.Â Revitalization efforts today are often simply to undo past mistakes.Â Rockford’s retail area is now firmly embeded in the think ring of sprawl.Â The 21st century version will be different than it was 75 years ago but also different than it has been over the last 30 years.
I had lunch inside the restaurant you see pictured with the outdoor seating.Â I asked my waitress what she thought of the mall going away.Â She didn’t want to see it go. I should not the mall was older than she was.
She was skeptical of the plans for having traffic on the street.Â “I hope it works out,” she said.Â Indeed, I plan to return after the Main Stret reopens.
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