Home » Pedestrian Mall » Recent Articles:

14th Street Pedestrian Mall, Thirty Years Ago Today

The first day of the grand opening of the 14th Street Pedestrian Mall was thirty years ago today, March 21, 1977. The big
official dedication followed on the 26th:


Three decades ago someone thought it a good idea to close off two blocks of a commercial street, intending to compete with then “open air” suburban malls. However, by 1977 the city had already experienced significant population losses, making it more challenging for the retailers, which included a JC Penny department store, harder to stay in business. Interestingly, a classmate of mine mentioned her family visited the new mall — once. They came to see what it was all about because it was new. After seeing the new mall they resumed their shopping at Northwest Plaza.

By 1977 the “pedestrian mall” movement was pretty well over, except in St. Louis obviously. By this point new suburban malls were enclosed. Thus, while 14th Street was intended to compete with the suburbs it was dated by the time it was opened. In the 1980s formerly open suburban malls, such as Northwest Plaza & Crestwood Plaza, were often enclosed.

onstl - 06.jpg

Today the mall is nearly vacant, with a few holes where buildings have been razed and as you can see, another is in the process of collapsing.  A long debate in the area is about the wisdom of the mall at the time.  Some suggest the mall helped preserve these buildings — that they would have fallen to the wrecker like so many others immediately around the area.  Others, myself included, counter that we would have seen abandonment and destruction in the area anyway but that the mall prevented revitalization efforts from taking hold in this former commercial district — that without the mall efforts to revitalize the neighborhood over the last 30 years might have gone further.

The neighborhood is on a role, finally.  Many of the remaining old buildings on the surrounding residential streets have been rehabbed or are in process.  New homes are being constructed on in-fill lots and of late organizations working together have purchased many of the buildings along the mall.  Plans are in the works to rip up the “mall” and return this to a street once again.  The only debate I am hearing at the moment is if the single cross street, Montgomery St, should be opened as well or remain closed.

The new 14th Street will most likely never be the major shopping destination it once was.  This would be the case regardless of the ‘malling’ or not.  The question is can it hold its own as an interesting commercial street anchored by the outstanding and popular Crown Candy Kitchen on one end?