Guest Column

April 13, 2014

Several options exist for downtown

In case you haven’t noticed, a lot is happening in and around downtown Plattsburgh. A group of dedicated, hard-working people are doing their best to create a dynamic, vibrant and family-oriented downtown.

A week or so ago, at the Adirondack Young Professionals’ (ADKYP) Economic Development Forum, a proposal was made to close unnamed street(s) as a way to promote further the revitalization of downtown Plattsburgh.

A bit of advice to the idea’s proponents, begin referring to “creating a pedestrian mall” as opposed to “closing streets.” It creates a different picture in your mind’s eye — at least for me, anyway.

Having said that, is creating a pedestrian mall a good idea? Heck, I don’t know, but it may be an idea worth discussing and possibly studying.

In the North Country, our image of a pedestrian mall is the very successful Church Street in Burlington. However, you may be surprised (as was I) to learn that Church Street is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to pedestrian malls.

A little background on pedestrian malls, the Netherlands built the first pedestrian mall in 1953. The first pedestrian mall in America opened in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1959 and by 1970, at the height of their popularity, over 200 cities had pedestrian malls. Pedestrian malls were seen as a way to save downtowns from the exodus of businesses to the suburbs and suburban malls.

Today, only 15 percent remain.

Researching this issue, I’ve learned that the closing of streets has little to do with the success or failure of a pedestrian mall.

The reason pedestrian malls have been successful in towns such as Boulder, Colo., and Burlington is the lifestyle of the people in those communities mixed with amenities such as restaurants, entertainment and other retail outlets that create a desirable venue.

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