A pedestrian mall for downtown Troy?

church street burlington, vermont

Church Street, the pedestrian mall in Burlington, Vermont.

Potentially interesting: Troy mayor Lou Rosamilia has floated the idea of permanently closing some downtown streets to vehicle traffic in order to create a pedestrian mall, the Biz Review reports. [Biz Review]

The most famous recent experiment of this type has been in New York City, which has closed off sections of Broadway in Manhattan. [NYT] [NYT]

But the pedestrian mall isn't a new concept. Kalamazoo, Michigan first tried it in 1959. Many cities followed with their own pedestrian malls -- and a large majority of them failed. (Kalamazoo re-opened part of its mall to vehicular traffic in the late 90s.) There have been some notable successes, though. For example, Burlington's pedestrian mall, Church Street, is great. [Wikipedia] [Indianapolis Downtown Inc. study] [Kalamazoo Public Library]

The thing about a pedestrian mall area is that you need people. Downtown Troy has good foot traffic during the day -- it's maybe our favorite Capital Region downtown in daylight. Will there be enough people the rest of the time to make it worth it? Public spaces without people tend to go the wrong way. If the City Center and City Station projects are successful, maybe. [Governing]

Of course, there are a lot of details that would have be figured out for this idea -- which streets, how to address parking issues, how to address access for shipments to shops and businesses. But it's an interesting idea.

photo: Flickr user redjar

Comments

this is a NIGHTMARE.

For the love of GOD, look at Main St. in Buffalo, NY. They turned it into a "pedestrian mall" in the 70's, and it turned into a ghost town.

They've only just begun opening it back up to cars...Isn't the Atrium enough of an "urban renewal" horror story for one city.

Who the heck does this joker think he is?

I dunno. Burlington has one of these and it seems pretty OK to me.

Great idea but lets wait til City Station and the Waterfront are complete. Also, the Capital District needs to bring itself together a little more, identify those intrinsic features to the region, create the networks for visitors to access them quickly and move between them. We're a 3.5 city region with all the assets of 3.5 cities, problem is we're all split up and divided by space; a river, a northway, a thruway and all the suburbs in between. There is no central location for anyone because the 3 cities are all competing against each other, and not doing well at it. Maybe they should work together.
Troy will be a great place to live, very very soon. Albany better get it's act together or it'll be playing second or third fiddle to 'toga and Troyalty

I love Burlington's downtown. But it did NOT work in Poughkeepsie, and really helped lead to the empty, sketchy downtown of today (they reopened it after the real malls came in and folks stopped coming downtown).

I think it's a great idea. As a Troy resident, I would love to see this happen; I think it could be successful if handled properly (the problem with the Atrium wasn't in conception, but execution). Schenectady has made great strides with the area around Proctor's over the past decade, and I would love to see a similar revitalization happen in Troy. True there's a lot of ways it can go wrong, but if approached cautiously and thoughtfully, it could also go oh-so-right.

I don't think you get it...you don't need the pedestrians to create the mall, you need the mall to create the people.

With the burgeoning interest in Downtown Troy...new businesses in particular...a pedestrian mall wouldn't hurt commerce, but help it to thrive. Not to mention banning automobile traffic would reduce the accidents and pollution they cause. As for shipments to businesses, please, that's a non-issue; look at any pedestrianized street in Europe.

Would you rather have the same old Troy that we've had for decades that is drab and the butt of all our jokes, or would you rather take a chance (one which the odds are most definitely on our side if it's done right), have some forward thinking, and make a name for the city?

With the help of a pedestrian mall, we can finally change the way we go about our daily lives; instead of getting in the car to go to a big box store for cheap junk, we could just walk or bike (!!!) down to a store owned by a local!

I was just talking about this with someone at Riverfest this past summer. That stretch of River Street, that I think is called the antique district, would be ideal...there isn't a lot of vehicle traffic on it to begin with (its mostly foot traffic) but concede that it should be done only after the waterfront renewal is complete.

I will 100% be selling my home downtown and moving if this gets built. Top down urban renewal has a HORRIBLE track record. For every success (typically in already valuable and desireable areas) there are a half dozen failures.

Sorry to spam....

http://www.governing.com/columns/urban-notebook/trouble-with-pedestrian-malls.html

"According to some estimates, of all the pedestrian malls that have dotted American cities in past years, fewer than 15 percent remain today."

http://crosscut.com/blog/crosscut/19106/Walkable-cities--So-how-come-pedestrian-malls-usually-fail-/

"Tacoma's retail district, Broadway between 9th and 15th, was crippled by the Tacoma Mall in the mid-60s. Then the City turned it into a ghost town by converting the area between 11th and 15th into the "Broadway Plaza" in the 70s. With the reintroduction of limited vehicular traffic a few years later, its only now recovering"

Many of the failed pedestrian malls were done in the 1970's and failed because the age of the MegaMall was impending. Now we're in a different age where rampant growth is no longer the norm but jsut a dream. The reality is we're rediscovering our downtowns out of nostalgia and force, we simply can't afford the same spatial growth, transportation, and waster resources any longer. Rediscovery downtown Troy isn't a bad idea, it's one that requires careful study and planning first. What made those 15% work? Let's find out, and remember the Troy Farmer's Market creates a whole lot of action in the City, why not have that same activity 7 days a week? What's required to make it happen?

Next, Troy is not Poughkeepsie, and Burlington could be any college town. Burlington found the secret recipe, Poughkeepsie didn't. This isn't about top-down planning, it's thinking about assets and utilization of them.

How is the one in Ithaca doing?

At first I thought, "This would be so cool!" Now I'm having second thoughts. I don't think there's enough pedestrian traffic to warrant this. The times that there are (Farmer's Mrkt, TNO, River Fest), the city does a fine job just putting up barriers to stop traffic. The rest of the time, I don't think there are enough pedestrians/traffic to justify the change. I agree it might be a good idea after the Waterfront is rebuilt, but not before.

If they did do it, they could model it similar to Calgary's. Traffic is allowed at certain times of day, but then barriers are pop out of the street, and the traffic lights redirect traffic when the pedestrian mall is open.

15% were successful....

Is Troy more like Buffalo and Poughkeepsie, or Burlington and Ithaca?

I live in Troy and that's a slam dunk answer for me.

The Mayor is looking to build without the foundation. He should be worrying about getting residents downtown, decreasing property taxes and crime, increasing property values, getting empty storefronts filled, and otherwise making troy a destination where a pedestrian mall might be successful. Instead he wants to skip all that and go straight to the pedestrian mall, because that's how politicians cum armchair city planners think, and that's why top-down urban renewal FAILS.

I am as anti-car as anybody, but I prefer streets that have some of them in the middle, managed in such a way that they are mostly safe for pedestrians and bicycles.

Complete Streets > Pedestrian Malls

While we're at it, how about a monorail for Troy? North Haverbrook has one and I hear they're doing great!

Troy would need more pedestrians for that to be successful. Perhaps if it was in coordination with a six-car monorail.

There are some streets in Tokyo (I'm thinking Ginza -- not that Troy can really be compared to Ginza in any meaningful way) that are closed to vehicle traffic during certain hours of the day. This sounds like an ideal solution; let the streets be pedestrian-only during the sunny parts of the day when people might actually want to use it.

Oohh Monorail, burn! Great use of pop culture. So witty the first time it was used, on the Simpsons.

As others have said... one step at a time. I love this idea as much as anyone, but I think it's premature. As someone who's just moved to the area and is still learning about it I can say that Troy definitely has my favorite downtown after Saratoga. And it would definitely rank above Saratoga if there was just some more life - more stores open, more people walking, more business - you know, all those things that make a truly successful downtown? Troy has an amazing bounty of beautiful, historic architecture (I was truly shocked), but the place is empty.

The number one thing that these urban renewal experts forget about is that people are the key. And not commuters. Not people attending sporting events or festivals. But people actually living in the place. I'm looking forward to seeing how the new residential development changes the character of Troy; once the results of that experiment are known then projects like this should be considered. But don't waste everyone's time and money just yet.

I've lived in Troy for about 5 years and I have to say, I hate this idea. I'm all about getting more businesses in the empty storefronts, and more pedestrians on the streets (and to be fair, most businesses close by 5 or 6, so there is usually not much reason to galavant in the evening - though I wish there was). Parking in Troy isn't really too horrendous, but in the downtown area, it certainly isn't plentiful. Closing off a street to bring more shoppers in will also lose all of those parking spaces. But that's okay, I'm sure they'll find a historic building to tear down and create a parking lot from the rubble.

It's hard enough to navigate Troy if you're unfamiliar with its host of one-way streets as it is.

Furthermore, in the picture example, the only sign for a business I can read is BORDERS (harbinger, much?). If we close off a street because streetwide foot traffic is somehow romantic in a way that is thought to be a boon to city life, can we not bring in businesses that are sending money out of the community?

Ike - I second your comment. Troy is a Poughkeepsie, for sure.

For a successful pedestrian mall, you have to have a "big draw" destination to drive pedestrian traffic (if only they got the Trader Joes!), adequate parking, a sense of safety (visibility, activity, no dark corners), and great PR.Troy has none of these.

20+ comments and no one has mentioned Jay St in Schenectady?

In the late '90s, it was pretty sad.

Only recently does it seem to be on the upswing. There are several good eateries and coffee shops. And its clearly benefiting from all of the construction on State St and the Greenmarket at Proctors in the winter (and at the other end of Jay in front of City Hall during the spring.)

Burlington's pedestrian mall is beautiful. And Ithaca has been thriving for a long time, as well. But Ithaca and Burlington are about the most crunchy car-hating folks on the planet.

And on a completely random note, does anyone know what happened to the Glassworks project that was floating around Guilderland a few years ago? Some sort of dense suburban renewal near the Y?

I love downtown and certainly love any new ideas - HOWEVER maybe it's time to fix the issues with living downtown before changing things up that drastically.

#1 - fix (sync) the damn lights to give a rolling green. Lights should NEVER be for traffic calming.

#2 Do away with this opposite side parking bull. I know it's not for street cleaning because they close the side you can park on for cleaning (According to the sides) making parking more hostile.

# 3 There is no reason you shouldn't be able to leave your car in a lot or garage overnight. The no parking 4-6 AM is just pointless. Do you want people to drive drunk? It's not very resident friendly either.

#4 Snow emergency law.

#5 A noise ordinance compromise. For example if you're a bar, say Daisy Baker's, you should be mindful of the fact that people actually live near your bar and maybe stop the music at midnight. Compromise makes for good neighbors.

#6 Apartment Building Smoking Ban - don't allow it in apartment buildings. It's 2012.

Seriously - living downtown is mostly great. A downtown full of residents (esp young professionals) also helps businesses and ultimately leads to growth. Improve the "not so great things" before turning a street into a mall. Totally agree with the above folks who said finish the riverfront and city center. Antique (former?) District is a great op for the mall.

What are you smoking? Jay St. in Schenectady is *horrible*.

I went there in December, on a Saturday afternoon around 3PM (ie, PRIME shopping time) just to do something different. Virtual ghost town. Of the handful of stores that exist there still, half were closed. Other than few sketchy looking guys (homeless? drug dealers?) there were no other pedestrians.

State street is a cesspool, except Proctors and maybe Bombers.

My girlfriend and I looked at each other, laughed and got the hell out of there.

With the development of the city hall site, and the extension of Broadway to the waterfront, Broadway could be a pedestrian mall from River Street to 4th Street. Include redevelopment of the "wall" of the Atrium along Broadway into space for shops and restaurants open to the street, as well as the other side of Broadway (between 3rd and 4th Streets) Have the Saturday and Wednesday Farmers market along there and into Monument Square down to the water. Allow food establishments to have seating expanded into the street in the warm months.

This limits the traffic disruption, and not too many parking spots lost. Foot traffic from various business along the adjacent streets would feed into this 'mall' and the reverse. There is plenty of parking at the garage a short walk away. The key would be the connection to the waterfront.

I agree that it's a bummer AOA never mentioned Jay Street. And it's a sign of it's status when no one else mentions it either.

I think Jay street is a huge missed opportunity by a city who seems to have chosen a small stretch of four or five blocks to focus it's resources (hints of corruption in there anyone?). Next time you're down there (Ambition is HIGHLY recommended for lunch), take a few minutes to chat it up with some of the business owners trying to make it work. It's not like the city has been all that accommodating.

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