Closed Street Pedestrian Malls of the U.S.
DBA's (Evolving) Comparison Matrix

"Recipe for Success" (learning curve)

The Basic Logic of American Pedestrian Malls

Successful American closed-street pedestrian malls are not self-sufficient. Once a street has been cut from its life-blood of vehicles, alternate life support must be provided. All the malls are sustained by vigorous business associations dedicated solely to sustaining the mall. A typical yearly budget is $500,000. Pearl Street 's is $2M. This money is obtained partly by fees added to rent but also from the local government and from assessments on all businesses in the vicinity of the mall. It is spent on promotion and maintenance. This is invisible to the visitor but its effects are indirectly perceived. These malls survive as regional magnets, attracting consumer visitors to downtowns. They are advertised prodigiously– on radio and in print media. Advertising includes automobile directions from all regional points to the parking lots and garages adjacent to the mall. See all satellite map clips on our caparison matrix (below.) On every one you will see large surface parking lots and parking structures adjacent to the malls. That is, these malls are sustained by inducing people to drive from far away, park adjacent to the mall, then leave their cars and walk. I know of this phenomenon first hand at 3rd St in Santa Monica , having lived in Santa Monica for a year. I know this is true for Berkeley's 4th Street Mall merely from listening to local radio. But I did not know this was true for every pedestrian mall all over the country.

If we close Center St. and follow the template of what's necessary to keep commerce alive on the street – we might actually increase auto traffic in the downtown. Certainly we'd need to provide abundant adjacent parking upon which all such malls depend.

I suspect this is not the favored vision of a pedestrian mall. But it is the real-world realization of one. Proponents may claim "Berkeley can come up with a creative new solution." But that supposes going against logic which has been proven by decades of expensive trial and error in hundreds of cities. -bw.


•  Like many other successful malls, Pearl Street receives specially earmarked funding for maintenance and management each year. The money keeps the streets clean and organizes the many monthly events needed to draw people into the shopping districts. In Boulder, the $2 million budget comes from the city, Downtown Boulder Inc. and the city's Business Improvement District — a broad area of businesses including Pearl Street that tax themselves for services. The revenue helps maintain the area's aesthetics and pays for annual events ranging from an art fair to "Bands on the Bricks," Fourth of July activities to August sidewalk sales.

•  Observers say a mall works best in a community that loves walking, and has a multitude of walkers nearby.

•  Proximity to a college

•  Efficient traffic flow

•  Variety of vendors

•  "Fine grain" architecture and small scale vendors which reward close inspection only possible on foot.

•  Abundant parking in proximity.

Our Comparison Matrix.We aim to fill the holes with on-going homework.

Click for website Map Satellite Miles driven per capita in state General Description Visitors per year Eye witness account Descrip of City College pop? How long until succeess? Block Dimenions Architecture, building density Includes tourist attraction? Gov't. & Pvt. Commitment; Promotion Business Assoc. Budget Surface parking proximity   Vitality;
Hours of vitality
Why success or failure  
Church St.
Burlington, Vt
Map Sattellite   4 blocks total; 2 always closed to traffic     40,000 16,500 20 yrs 120' w/gaps "Historic Oldtown" Lovely old milltown, old church, etc. President Carter; Senator Leahy; the whole business community. $500,000 Abundant   Great    
Fulton Mall, Fresno, CA Map Sattellite   Fulton St & Mariposa   John R       400' "Historic Oldtown"       Abundant.   "Dead"
Large hospitol and hotel moved away from downtown, lack of investment the investment interest went to car-sprawl, IRS moved its center 3 miles out of downtown.

Mission Creek Plaza, San Luis Obispo

Map Sattellite   751 Palm St           300' w/ gaps Free-standing buildings Old San Luis Mission Vigorously promoted.   Abundant.        
Pearl St, Boulder CO Map Sattellite             1977-present 300' may be gaps       $2M     Great    
Third St. Promenade, Santa Monica Map Sattellite               450 may be gaps              
The one street pedestrian mall design is restricting, and the inflexibility limits expansion. A redevelopment as a sqaure is a proposed alternative.
Charlottesville, VA. Map Sattellite             1970's to present varies 50' - 200' "Historic Oldtown" Montecello (near); old U of V Vigorously promoted.   Abundant   Great
Municipal bus service, several parking garages. mature trees, sidewalk vendors, performers, and musicians. An amphitheater that serves as a concert venue.
State Street, Madison Wisconsin Map Sattellite               300' w gaps              
The 100 - 600 blocks are not completely closed to vehicles, but use of street restricted to buses, bicycles, and authorized vehicles.
Ithica, NY Map Sattellite                                  
Lake St, Oak Park, IL       Harlem Ave & Forest Ave                         Failed    
Center St, Berkeley Map Sattellite   Center St. & Oxford Presently :commuters only   100,000 40,000 ? 450' Nondescript. except for new museum. New art museum None committed or likely.   almost none.   before 4:00 PM    

This exercise has been done by many before us. For example, see "Great Streets"
Project (Charlottesville) Snapshot:
A rare 1970s-era pedestrian mall survives through thoughtful updates and links to the larger community.
Project History:

Countless cities jumped on the pedestrian mall bandwagon in the 1960s and early 70s, only to watch already weakened downtown merchants collapse for lack of foot and vehicular traffic.  Most have since reverted to conventional street access, but Charlottesville successfully bucks this trend, and retains a pedestrian-only design on East Main Street, in the heart of the historic downtown.

Special advantages make this design possible in Charlottesville. First, Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia , and the downtown is heavily traveled by students and academics alike. Second, the town is a major tourist destination for it's history -- most notably Thomas Jefferson's Monticello , perched on a scenic hilltop above the city.

See also: Criticism
Failed Pedestrian Malls Article

"Two Cents" from Bruce Wicinas, Veteran Pedestrian • In order for a pedestrian "environment" to succeed - to persuade people to disembark from their vehicles - the visitor must be rewarded for the effort. The "reward" is the discovering via the senses of more than one can by driving by. Hence the buildings and their contents must be interesting and detailed. The "grain" must be "fine." Large buildings without fine detail are almost automatically excluded by this criterion, even if they are exquisite. This is why nearly all successful pedestrian malls are located in "old towns", where the buildings are small and wonderfully detailed - "charming," even "cute."