Is the pedestrian mall dead, do cars really add vitality to places or is it a mere lack of government and planners not creating exciting places to live, shop and relax? Numerous cities around the world have implemented pedestrian malls and most often deemed failures as they get old and tired with a lack of investment and also a lack of ownership from citizens and shop owners.
In the 1970’s pedestrian malls were seen as a new way of revitalising areas and bringing life to an area by stopping traffic noise and pollution entering. Numerous cities implemented the pedestrian mall to often see them become desolate places and then decide after 10-20 years to reopen the street to traffic. Was this failure due to the poor planning and site selection or was it due to the lack of activity such as vehicle movement making the area seem unsafe?
Often pedestrian malls fail because the selection of street to close is poor, such as a large street or a purely shopping street with only retail stores. The best pedestrain malls that survive today are those in areas with a varied mix of uses – shopping, restaurants, bars, and often have commercial and high-density residential within 5 minutes walking distance.
Currently Boston’s area known as Downtown Crossing is being labelled as a failure by the community and stating that it should be reopened to traffic as reported in The Boston Globe report Should Downtown Crossing be reopened to traffic? However, are these claims that it’s a failure more a sign of a detoriating downtown lacking energy? are people just coming to downtown to work? does downtown crossing need redevelopment? Many downtowns and central business districts are suffering as they have become merely places to work and not places to live.
The best solution for Downtown Crossing is proactive decisions from the City to get developers, retailers, restauteurs to recreate the area.
During an economic crisis countries and cities need visions to energise their cities. The economic crisis is the best time to get people together to get opinions and ideas on how areas can be improved as many people in the community now have the time available. A city community consultation and subsequent ideas can generate interest in an area and thus investment from developers as they see opporunities that may have gone unnoticed before. Generating of an ideas and possible change also gives everyone in the city a better outlook and hope in the current economic circumstances.
Editor – World Landscape Architect