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The good and bad of St. Louis’ first Open Streets event

ABOVE:
ABOVE: cyclists on Locust St.

This past Saturday I participated in the first of four planned “Open Streets” events in St. Louis.  I went from my loft at 16th & Locust to Forest Park.  Most doing the route were on bikes.  Some were jogging while others were walking, some pushing strollers.  I did the 10-mile round trip in my power wheelchair.

ABOVE: St. Louis Mayor Fracis Slay talks to participants at Olive & Lindell.
ABOVE: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay (left) talks to participants at Olive & Lindell.

I had a good time, took 140 pictures and saw many people I know but I have mixed feelings about the event.

The Good:

  • 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.

The Bad:

  • 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.
ABOVE: Sidewalk along Locust St
ABOVE: Sidewalk along Locust St

The remaining three will be:

  • June 13, 2010
  • September 19, 2010
  • October 9, 2010

For more information see http://stlouis.missouri.org/open-streets/

– Steve Patterson

 

Locust, Lindell, other streets go car-free Saturday May 1st

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.

– Steve Patterson

 

North America cities that have (or had) a pedestrian mall

Friday I asked for help with information on 60 former pedestrian malls (see post).  Readers responded with helpful information.  Today I’m sharing my complete list of cities that have or had a pedestrian mall built during the period 1959-1984.   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.  The “semi” mall permitted traffic but on-street parking was significantly reduced or eliminated.  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.  A couple of sources I have made reference to (nearly/almost/over) 200 malls built.   These sources never document this 200 number.  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)

  1. Allentown Pennsylvania
  2. Ann Arbor Michigan
  3. Ashtabula Ohio
  4. Atchison Kansas
  5. Atlantic City New Jersey
  6. Auburn New York
  7. Baltimore Maryland
  8. Baltimore Maryland
  9. Battle Creek Michigan
  10. Boston Massachusetts
  11. Boulder Colorado
  12. Buffalo New York
  13. Burbank California
  14. Burlington Vermont
  15. Burlington Iowa
  16. Calgary Alberta
  17. Cape May New Jersey
  18. Centrallia Illinois
  19. Champaign Illinois
  20. Charlottesville Virginia
  21. Chicago Illinois
  22. Coos Bay Oregon
  23. Cumberland Maryland
  24. Dallas Texas
  25. Dallas Texas
  26. Danville Illinois
  27. Decatur Illinois
  28. Denver Colorado
  29. Des Moines Iowa
  30. Dubuque Iowa
  31. East Lansing Michigan
  32. Elgin Illinois
  33. Erie Pennsylvania
  34. Eugene Oregon
  35. Evansville Indiana
  36. Fargo North Dakota
  37. Fayetteville North Carolina
  38. Fort Lauderdale Florida
  39. Frankfort Kentucky
  40. Freeport New York
  41. Freeport Illinois
  42. Fresno California
  43. Galveston Texas
  44. Greenville South Carolina
  45. Greenville North Carolina
  46. Hallifax Nova Scotia
  47. Hartford Connecticut
  48. Helena Montana
  49. Honolulu Hawaii
  50. Iowa City Iowa
  51. Ithaca New York
  52. Jackson Michigan
  53. Kalamazoo Michigan
  54. Kansas City Kansas
  55. Knoxville Tennessee
  56. Lake Charles Louisiana
  57. Lansing Michigan
  58. Las Cruces New Mexico
  59. Las Vegas Nevada
  60. Lebanon New Hampshire
  61. Lincoln Nebraska
  62. Little Rock Arkansas
  63. Louisville Kentucky
  64. Madison Wisconsin
  65. Memphis Tennessee
  66. Miami Beach Florida
  67. Michigan City Indiana
  68. Middletown Ohio
  69. Milwaukee Wisconsin
  70. Minneapolis Minnesota
  71. Monroe North Carolina
  72. Muncie Indiana
  73. Napa California
  74. New Bedford Massachusetts
  75. New London Connecticut
  76. New Orleans Louisiana
  77. New Orleans Louisiana
  78. New York City (Brooklyn) New York
  79. Newburyport Massachusetts
  80. Oak Park Illinois
  81. Ottawa Ontario
  82. Oxnard California
  83. Painesville Ohio
  84. Palm Beach Florida
  85. Parsons Kansas
  86. Paterson New Jersey
  87. Philadelphia Pennsylvania
  88. Philadelphia Pennsylvania
  89. Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
  90. Pomona California
  91. Portland Maine
  92. Portland Oregon
  93. Pottsville Pennsylvania
  94. Poughkeepsie New York
  95. Providence Rhode Island
  96. Quebec City Quebec
  97. Reading Pennsylvania
  98. Redding California
  99. Redlands California
  100. Richmond Indiana
  101. Riverside California
  102. Rock Hill South Carolina
  103. Rockford Illinois
  104. Sacramento California
  105. Saint Charles Missouri
  106. Saint Louis Missouri
  107. Salem Massachusetts
  108. Salisbury Maryland
  109. Santa Cruz California
  110. Santa Monica California
  111. Schenectady New York
  112. Scranton Pennsylvania
  113. Seattle Washington
  114. Sheboygan Wisconsin
  115. Sioux Falls South Dakota
  116. Spartanburg South Carolina
  117. Springfield Missouri
  118. Springfield Illinois
  119. St. Cloud Minnesota
  120. St. Joseph Missouri
  121. Tacoma Washington
  122. Tampa Florida
  123. Toccoa Georgia
  124. Toronto Ontario
  125. Trenton New Jersey
  126. Tulsa Oklahoma
  127. Vancouver British Columbia
  128. Vicksburg Mississippi
  129. Washington District of Columbia
  130. West Chester Pennsylvania
  131. Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania
  132. Williamsport Pennsylvania
  133. Wilmington Delaware
  134. Winona Minnesota
  135. Winston-Salem North Carolina
  136. Youngstown Ohio

I believe most, if not all, of those listed in red have been removed with the street re-opened to traffic.  I may just need the year it was reopened.    I have no doubt that over 200 were proposed.  Built?  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.  These tended to be very different.  In the case of Oklahoma City they dug out a street in their old warehouse district to create a canal.

– Steve Patterson

 

Help needed with info on sixty former pedestrian malls

The topic of my capstone (thesis) for my Masters in Urban Planning is the pedestrian mall.  I’ve taken on the ambitious task of documenting every pedestrian mall built in North America between 1959-1984.  So far I have documentation on 135 pedestrian malls created during this 25-year period.  Of those I know the current status of 75.  I believe the 60 that remain on my list have all been removed.  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):

  1. Hamilton Mall Allentown Pennsylvania 1973
  2. Ann Arbor Michigan
  3. Lexington Mall Baltimore Maryland 1974
  4. Downtown Mall Centrallia Illinois 1970
  5. Neil Street Champaign Illinois
  6. City Center Mall Coos Bay Oregon 1969
  7. Stoneplace Mall Dallas Texas 1965
  8. Vermillion Park Mall Danville Illinois 1967
  9. Landmark Mall Decatur Illinois 1970
  10. Town Clock Plaza Dubuque Iowa 1971
  11. Elgin Illinois
  12. Downtown Mall Erie Pennsylvania 1974
  13. Fargo North Dakota
  14. Franklin Commons Fayetteville North Carolina
  15. Las Olas Boulevard Fort Lauderdale Florida
  16. St. Clair Mall Frankfort Kentucky 1974
  17. Downtown Plaza Freeport Illinois 1968
  18. Central Plaza Galveston Texas 1971
  19. Downtown Greenville Mall Greenville North Carolina 1975
  20. Coffee Street Mall Greenville South Carolina 1975
  21. Pratt Street Hartford Connecticut
  22. Progress Place Jackson Michigan 1965
  23. Downtown Mall Lake Charles Louisiana 1970
  24. Milwaukee Wisconsin
  25. Courthouse Plaza Monroe North Carolina 1973
  26. Walnut Plaza Muncie Indiana 1975
  27. Parkway Mall Napa California 1974
  28. Downtown Mall New Bedford Massachusetts 1974
  29. Captain’s Walk New London Connecticut 1973
  30. Plaza Park Mall Oxnard California 1969
  31. Main Street Mall Painesville Ohio 1973
  32. Worth Avenue Palm Beach Florida
  33. Parsons Plaza Parsons Kansas 1971
  34. Main Street Mall Paterson New Jersey 1975
  35. Chestnut Street Transitway Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1975
  36. Maplewood Mall Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1974
  37. Pomona Mall Pomona California 1963
  38. Centre Street Mall Pottsville Pennsylvania 1977
  39. Westchester Mall Providence Rhode Island 1965
  40. St. Roch Mall Quebec City Quebec 1974
  41. Penn Square Reading Pennsylvania 1975
  42. Redlands Mall Redlands California 1977
  43. Rock Hill South Carolina
  44. Main Street Saint Charles Missouri
  45. Wyoming Avenue Mini-Mall Scranton Pennsylvania 1978
  46. Plaza 8 Sheboygan Wisconsin 1976
  47. Main Street Mall Spartanburg South Carolina 1974
  48. Springfield Missouri
  49. Old Capitol Plaza Springfield Illinois 1971
  50. Mall Germain St. Cloud Minnesota 1972
  51. Broadway Plaza Tacoma Washington 1974
  52. Franklin Mall Tampa Florida 1974
  53. Yonge Street Toronto Ontario
  54. Trenton Commons Trenton New Jersey 1974
  55. Main Street Mall Vicksburg Mississippi 1970s
  56. Gay Street Mall West Chester Pennsylvania
  57. Center City Mall Williamsport Pennsylvania 1976
  58. Market Street Mall Wilmington Delaware 1976
  59. Levee Plaza Winona Minnesota 1969
  60. Liberty Place/Gallery Place Washington District of Columbia 1976

Complicating matters is how a pedestrian mall was defined.  A full mall was completely closed to all vehicles except emergency vehicles.  A transit mall, like Denver’s 16th Street, allows transit vehicles.  But then we have the murky waters of the “semi” mall – vehicles are allowed but little to no on-street parking is.

East Park Central East Springfield MO (from Google Street View)
East Park Central East Springfield MO (from Google Street View)

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.  Or Springfield had a completely closed street that was their pedestrian mall?  Given the fact that Lawrence Halprin did the adjacent Park Central Square I’d say they did label the above a mall.

Park Central Square Springfield MO, April 2008
Park Central Square Springfield MO, April 2008

I’ve been here several times.  The most recent was last year.

Me with two of my nieces, April 2008
Me with two of my nieces, April 2008

OK, 59 left. Wait, not so fast.  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.  But other evidence suggests traffic was never barred from the Square.  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, July 2009
Parsons, KS, July 2009

Parsons, KS had a “full” mall on Main Street and concrete canopies over the sidewalks.  Today they once again have a more traditional street design.  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.  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.  Not sure I get the point of that one.  A car-free alley is better than a street with cars?

It is too early in my research to talk findings or conclusions.  I have been surprised by the number of these malls that remain.  If you have knowledge of these please share in the comments below or email me.  My graduation is 3-weeks from today.

– Steve Patterson

 

The Worst Main Street Revitalization Ideas

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.  They didn’t have the mall on the edge of town drawing customers away from main street.  They had only the single school district.  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.  With some exceptions these all failed:

  • One-way traffic – charming main streets were turned into high speed roads to get through town.  See Collinsville IL and many others.
  • Elimination of on-street parking – Saw this in Springfield MO.  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.  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.  Beautiful facades were bisected.
  • Modernize facades – cheap modern materials covered detailed old storefronts.  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.  Adds nothing but a dated look.
  • Parking in rear – Many towns built excessive parking behind main street buildings.  With new rear entrances the street out front became useless.

Visuals of some of the above, all coincidentally from Kansas towns:

Atchison KS
Atchison KS
Parsons KS
Coffeyville KS
Salina KS
Salina KS

Agree?  Disagree?  Have additional “solutions” to add to the list?  If so, use the comments below.

– Steve Patterson

 

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