What Pedestrian Malls Look Like In Other College Towns
It took two tries, but a pedestrian mall is coming to downtown State College for several weeks at least this summer.
The Summers on Allen project aims to provide plenty of outdoor amenities and entertainment to State College along with access to all existing stores and restaurants without the chaos of cars darting back and forth between Beaver Ave. and College Ave.
Although it met extensive resistance from some Council and community members and needed to be placed on the agenda for a second vote, the pedestrian mall has generated plenty of excitement among students and young professionals in the area. Because we don’t know what exactly the Allen Street pedestrian mall will have in store, we decided to look at some other successful pedestrian malls in college towns across the country.
Pearl Street: Boulder, Colorado
Located in the historic area of downtown Boulder and about 20 minutes from the University of Colorado, Pearl Street features four blocks of stores and restaurants. The pedestrian mall is filled with street performers and blooming flowers, and tons of people flock to the area when the weather cooperates.
For those who are interested in finding a nice and relaxing place to hang out, there are plenty of amenities — including interactive fountains and benches to sit on while you people-watch.
In the initial pitch for Allen Street, there was some talk of putting in planters and outdoor amenities, which could be adapted from Pearl Street. The proposed planters could add a more natural aesthetic to the street.
State Street: Madison, Wisconsin
This pedestrian mall is anchored by the University of Wisconsin on one end and the Wisconsin Capitol Building at the other. There are a lot of locally-owned shops that make this pedestrian mall especially unique, and a trolley also runs on the street. Some of the city’s buses also make their way through State Street, so it isn’t entirely closed off to vehicles.
State Street features plenty of outdoor restaurant seating, which is something Pickle’s and even McLanahan’s could capitalize on. Imagine enjoying a beer on Allen Street during the one time of the year that the sun is actually out in State College.
The Ped Mall: Iowa City, Iowa
Just a quick walk over from the University of Iowa is The Ped Mall. During the summer months, the mall features a Friday night concert series, the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival, and the Iowa City Arts Festival. Just like the other pedestrian malls, this one features a plethora of restaurants, shopping venues, bars, and even hotels.
State College’s annual Arts Fest could be greatly enhanced by Allen Street being shut down to vehicles throughout June. More amenities being available to festival-goers in an established space could make the street a more enjoyable experience.
Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall: Charlottesville, VA
A little more than a mile from the University of Virginia is the Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall. This is one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country, and it has more than 120 stores and 30 restaurants.
An Allen Street pedestrian mall would obviously never be this extensive, but it could potentially take a few notes from what makes this pedestrian mall so successful. There are a lot of interactive features with something for everyone — including all types of restaurants and bars — which Allen Street could incorporate.
Ithaca Commons: Ithaca, NY
Between Cornell University and Ithaca College sits a four-block pedestrian mall known as Ithaca Commons. This pedestrian mall has a little bit of everything, but it features a lot of historic elements of Ithaca.
Allen Street’s potential pedestrian mall could be a great opportunity to showcase history of State College and Centre County for visitors of the pedestrian mall.
Church Street Marketplace: Burlington, VT
Less than half a mile from the University of Vermont is the Church Street Marketplace, which includes more than 100 shops and restaurants. The marketplace also hosts many events throughout the year and bring in entertainers regularly.
State College could capitalize on having the space of a pedestrian mall on Allen Street to hold events sponsored by the Borough, like community outreach events.
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About the Author
Can I get a…Penn State alum on Wheel of Fortune?
Penn State senior Hannah Mears is an aspiring broadcast journalist who’s honed her reporting skills as a sideline reporter for Penn State Athletics over the past three-plus years.
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