De-isolating the Pedestrian Mall

Car-free for more than 15 years, Chicago opened its dying pedestrian mall on State Street to vehicular traffic in 1996, with huge success. Should Boston planners and officials consider a similar strategy for its Downtown Crossing?
March 11, 2009, 9am PDT | Judy Chang
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"Like Downtown Crossing, which sees an estimated 230,000 people walk through every day, State Street always enjoyed heavy foot traffic. Even during its nadir in the 1980s, more than 20,000 people passed most corners of the nine-block mall every day, making it one of the most traveled areas in the city. But not until the street was reconnected to downtown did the district come back to life, city officials and planners say.

'It was just critical,' said Philip Enquist, an urban designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which designed the removal of the mall. 'I think State Street would not have succeeded had we not brought the cars back. The ripple effects have been phenomenal.'"

"'The lesson is that cities are about activity and energy,' said Elizabeth Hollander, who was Chicago's planning commissioner in the 1980s and is now a senior fellow at Tufts University. 'What they want to do is make themselves different from suburban malls - that's their niche.'

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Published on Monday, March 9, 2009 in The Boston Globe
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