Study examines why the Ithaca Commons has survived while other pedestrian malls die

Table of Contents The Commons is a “right-size mall”What makes or breaks a pedestrian mall? Shared

ITHACA, N.Y.—Years ago, Dr. Stephan Schmidt—an associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University—discussed the transferability of European urban intervention practices to American cities with his students in their Green Cities class. That discussion, which centered on the viability of pedestrian malls in the United States, became the genesis of a study that would later appear in the Journal of Urbanism

The study, titled “The rise and fall of the American pedestrian mall,” examined the relationship between the overall success of pedestrian zones and a variety of geographic, demographic and economic factors. It considered the importance of outdoor public spaces like shared streets (pandemic-induced closures of frequently-trafficked streets) and pedestrianized corridors. Contributors sought to better understand why certain pedestrian malls—desirable pedestrian environments that city planners and public officials established across the United States throughout the 1960s and ‘70s—have continued to thrive. 

Cornell University students Samantha Matsuke, a Masters candidate, and Wenzheng Li, who is pursuing his PhD, co-authored the study. Dr. Schmidt and his colleagues analyzed 125 pedestrian malls from the previous generation of vehicle-restricted street intervention to find out why less than half of these spaces are still in existence today. 

Study examines why the Ithaca Commons has survived while other pedestrian malls die