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Pedestrian malls : their roles in the revitalization of downtown Yip, Hin-Fong

Abstract

During the past two decades the Pedestrian Mall has emerged as a new development concept in the downtowns of many cities of the world. This paper attempts to study the role of the pedestrian mall in the revitalization of downtown. As a background to this study, the author researched the various functions of the street from historical time to the present day, the type of pedestrian malls that have been built, and the elements that are basic to the pedestrian mall. Many malls have been built in Europe, England, the United States and Canada; some have succeeded but some failed. The experiences of eleven pedestrian malls were reviewed and the criticism by various writers were recorded, and sometimes analysed. Out of this review, the author has also identified the different stages generally taken during the planning process of pedestrian malls. These planning stages may be useful as guidelines for future mall developments. The author finds that the revitalization of downtown is a very confused issue. This study concludes that the role of the pedestrian mall in the revialization must be looked at from two different points of view. Philosophically, the pedestrian mall represents the return of the street as a social space where people congregate and carry on with a variety of activities. In this respect the human scale of the space must be emphasized and the images of the city must be preserved and enhanced. Pragmatically, the pedestrian mall is a tool to generate a higher degree of economic activities, to resolve the pedestrian-vehicular conflict, and to create a better environment for human beings. It follows whether a mall succeeds or not depends on what it sets out to achieve. In order that the pedestrian mall can fulfil its function many requirements must be met. These requirements include the close cooperation between the merchants and the civic government; the establishment of a Mall Authority; the provision of accessibility and transportation to and from the mall; and the addition of amenities and good urban design. The Granville Mall in Vancouver is chosen as a case study. This mall is considered as a political action and was completed in a very short time. It has avoided in the planning process any experimentation, and the feasibility study and design phase were kept to the minimum. The recent evaluation surveys have reported that the sales volume has increased, but a city-wide opinion survey conducted by the author has indicated that 48% of the sample either disliked the mall for various reasons or were indifferent. It may be concluded that the Granville Mall is successful in revitalizing the economic activity of downtown but falls short of becoming a social space for people. The author has suggested some ideas in making the Granville Mall into a downtown centre for people if the transit is removed from the Mall.

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