Years ago, the pedestrian mall was open to cars.Old-timers remember a bustling thoroughfare long before the mall turned pedestrian.
Now, many people think pedestrian malls are a thing of the past.
"This particular mall was patterned after one in Kalamazoo, Mich.," said Errol Frailey, Downtown Raleigh Alliance president. "It's been several years now since the mall in Kalamazoo was torn out ... Other cities across the country have taken up their pedestrian malls. It's worked in only a handful."
Alliance members are working to draft a proposal to send to the Raleigh City Council. Their reportwill officially recommend opening the pedestrian mall to traffic and parking.
The report concludes that the pedestrian mall concept does not attract enough people to the mall, ruining the climate for those who want to do business there.
Hot dog vendor Paul Forehand said he could use more foot traffic.
"They still gotta eat, so they'll grab a hog dog and go shop. So I'm expecting that it could very well help business down here for the mall vendors," he said.
However, not everyone wants to see a change.
"It's not a good idea," said Maria Espinoza. "We're tourists, and we like it like this. This is the kind of thing we come to these cities for."
The group will formally present its recommendations to the City Council next Tuesday. The council will look over the options and comments gathered at two public forums.
If all goes well, backers of the plan expect construction could start next year.
Meanwhile, the effort to bring more development to downtown Raleigh just received a big boost.
Empire Properties is planning to convert the old Heilig-Levine Building and three other stores into shops, offices, restaurants and apartments.
The $3.5 million conversion of vacant buildings is the company's biggest project ever. The construction is expected to take about a year.
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