Local News

Fayetteville Street Mall Faces Uncertain Future

Posted July 1, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— It sounded like a great idea at the time -- close off the street and bring shoppers back to downtown Raleigh. Now critics say the plan only forgot one thing-- you.

Suburban Malls once gutted most American cities' downtown shopping districts. But when the stores left, so did the city's spirit and tax revenue. Center City pedestrian malls were supposed to save the downtowns. They didn't.

Greenville city leaders once thought adding a pedestrian mall would revitalize a stagnant downtown. Now they're hoping tearing it down will do the same. The sledge hammers can be heard all the way to Raleigh.

Scott Snavely has been running his shop on the Fayetteville Street Mall for 17 years. His is one of the few retail shops left on the pedestrian strip. Several others are still empty, closed due to lack of business. Still, many loyal customers aren't in favor of a change.

Snavely believes turning the mall into a street again would be detrimental to the downtown area. One former majorette says she saw the street years ago. She marched the street and didn't like it. It's the mall that she likes.

On the other hand,some don't like the mall. They want the same unobstructed view of the Capitol that Confederate soldiers once saw. They want Fayetteville Street teeming once again with traffic and trolley cars. Landscape Architecture Professor Shashir Raval sees compromises.

Raval sees the final solution involving mixed land use with more people living downtown and more people using mass transit. Allowing cars back on the mall may have to happen. Raval believes the ability to park right in front of a shop is a very positive factor.

Some business owners like aren't ready to go that far yet. Snavely believes it would be expensive to do away with the mall and that results wouldn't be guaranteed. He admits it would be nice to have a few parking spaces out front, but it would be nicer to have hundreds of people walking by.

The debate about a downtown pedestrian-only mall comes as the retail industry argues about mall designs in general. The "doomed" regional mall that dominated designs 15 years ago may be fading.

Part of the change is due to the even bigger super-malls or "mills" with huge stores and promises of big savings. Another factor is entertainment, movies in particular. Industry watchers say most new malls have to offer more than shopping, and multi-screen theaters are the most common answer.