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Fayetteville Street Mall Faces Uncertain Future

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Many shops on the Fayetteville Street Mall have been vacated due to lack of business
RALEIGH — It sounded like a great idea at the time -- close off the street and bringshoppers back to downtown Raleigh. Now critics say the plan only forgotone thing-- you.

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

Greenville city leaders once thought adding a pedestrian mall would revitalizea 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 Mallfor 17 years. His is one of the few retail shops left on the pedestrianstrip. 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 detrimentalto the downtown area. One former majorette says she saw the streetyears ago. She marched the street and didn't like it. It's the mall thatshe likes.

On the other hand,some don't like the mall. They want the sameunobstructed view of the Capitol that Confederate soldiers once saw. Theywant 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 peopleliving downtown and more people using mass transit. Allowing cars back onthe mall may have to happen. Raval believes the ability to park rightin 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 afew parking spaces out front, but it would be nicer to have hundreds ofpeople walking by.

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

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

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