Something for y’all to chew on while I work on a few posts I’ve been meeting to get to. I was in Denver last week for the first time and it reminded me of one of my favorite urban planning concepts: the pedestrian-only street (something about the feeling of sticking it to the man by legally jay-walking? The marriage of sidewalk and street sans curb?)
The 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver is chockful of restaurants, shopping, movies, etc. The only vehicles are buses that can take you from one end to the other. It’s not quite as offbeat as Burlington, Vt.’s Church Street Marketplace but it is a flurry of activity day and night. There also was the Summer Streets experiment in Manhattan this past August as well as a recent push in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to make the main drag there (Bedford Avenue) pedestrian-only.
By no means am I comparing Rahway to any of those cities. For one, Denver’s mall is 16 blocks long — though it is only 1.25 miles, not much longer than the stretch of Irving Street. But these are major metropolises that also draw on a big tourist population. The closest thing I can think of in New Jersey is Cape May’s Washington Street Mall, which is credited with “rescuing” that downtown in the early ’70s.
On with my point for discussion: How about making East Cherry Street pedestrian-only? It’s closed for some downtown events but would making it permanent be an improvement (I only say East Cherry because it seems like it’d make the most sense of any downtown street)?
I’m not sure that “pedestrianisation” is necessary for East Cherry Street as it’s not exactly dominated by vehicles and you’d lose parking spaces at a time when they seem to be at a premium. There would be an issue of adequate access to Lot B behind The Waiting Room, where a parking deck is planned, and hopefully future residential development. But ped-only areas also generate foot traffic, a primary goal of Rahway’s redevelopment. What do you think, would it help or hurt local merchants?
Regardless, it’s just food for thought. In the meantime, here’s another interesting New York Times story about various concepts to draw people out into the streets.
5/8/12 UPDATE: I came across this recent piece from Atlantic Cities, “The Uncertain Legacy of America’s Pedestrian Malls,” which is a good read — and check out all the comments!