The prolific Yonah Freemark has penned a piece in Next American City on the revitalization of Downtown Raleigh when a pedestrian mall was transformed:

Like the central business districts of many state capitals, North Carolina’s (Downtown Raleigh) was plagued by its almost overwhelming reliance on office workers, its few residents, and its decided lack of street life.

Part of the problem, it seemed, was the presence of a pedestrian mall at the center of the city on Fayetteville Street. Much as in other U.S. cities, Raleigh planners had assumed that moving cars off the city’s main drag would improve quality of life and expand business, but the result was unfortunately frequently the opposite. By the early 2000s, the Fayetteville Street Mall was downright dour at night.

The city’s Urban Design Center (UDC), a division of its planning department, decided to attempt to undo the damage by bringing cars back in and opening up the perspective between the old State Capitol and the performing arts center …  A formerly pedestrian-only space would once again be shared with automobiles.

Four years later, the new street has become a wild success, at least considering the number of people I noticed using it day and night.

Kent Lundberg with the Isthmus Group in Auckland commented:

I think there is a critical population density that makes ped malls workable. Though in saying that, I was surprised to learn that Copenhagen doesn’t have that many people living in the CBD and they seem to be able to support a lot of ped-only spaces. Maybe it’s a function of the quality of the urban environment overall…

His colleague Scot Bathgate, thinking of Granville Street, would like to put together a collection of ped malls for comparison around the world.  Contributions welcome. 

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