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I'm a business owner in downtown, on University Ave; and I wholeheartedly support this idea. It's been bounced around here and there, but there are a few big obstacles to overcome:

1. Momentum - it has never picked up momentum. The whole idea needs to become a phenomenon. The movement needs to become bigger than the idea, so using all the social networks is the answer, but don't disregard the social networks of the actual restaurants and the cafes which will be the biggest benefactors. These are real human networks.

2. A leader. This idea needs a voice, and it must be carried by someone with a lot of influence. I am glad Yoriko is helping, but be on the lookout for others. Yoriko is a figure head, but then there are the 'doers'. You need to identify them.

3. Financial. This is a big problem right now given all the budget cuts. However, the economy wont be in the doldrums forever, let's hope; and in any case all ideas can have creative low budget solutions. Also, it can have deep pocket donors that truly believe in this. There are still a lot of rich local Palo Altans, so don't forget about them.

4. The squeaky wheels. They are a handful but they are loud. If the phenomenon is big, they'll be overtaken. No one likes change, so watch out for them. Better yet, identify them and win them over.

Finally, I don't know who's on the team, but make sure you get some real urban planners/architects on board (probono, of course).

I'm so happy that this is happening!

ken alsman

Hmm -- I found a totally different experience in Charlottesville - low-end merchandise, poorly maintained stores, a smattering of people, congested side streets, dirty poorly managed eating areas on the "plaza", no logical design. I also recall an attempt in Sacramento. Bad. An occasional, special event -- OK.

What are the externalities? Residents are already without parking in surrounding neighborhoods, traffic is diverted to where???. More horrible one-way streets. Isn't University Ave. a logical entrance to a University?

On the other hand, it could compliment a high speed grade separated wall along Alma.


As a former palo alto resident and stanford alum, I always wondered why this hadn't happened sooner. Let's hope it happens! City of Palo Alto worker - PA could probably just extract the money from Stanford's endowment in return for granting them the right to develop their own land, the way they always fund their coffers.

City of Palo Alto Worker

While your idea sounds great in theory, who is going to pay for this change? The city? NO! The residents? I highly doubt it. Do you have any idea what kind of debt the City of Palo Alto is in and how many people are getting laid off? While the economy is in dire need of reconstruction you want to make downtown a park? The people of this city never cease to amaze me.

CV Harquail


Your post illustration was immediately recognizable to me as the pedestrian mall in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. Twenty years ago, this was 'main street', with a funky retro Woolworth's, a pharmacy with a soda fountain, and not much else of note. It was the non-center of an empty, depressed town.

Some enlightened citizens, designers and elected officials created the movement to turn it into what it is now-- the central 3rd place of a vibrant community. The downtown revival has spread blocks & blocks away, and invited new kinds of businesses, community activity, and interaction. There is nothing better than a stroll down the mall with an ice cream cone, a dog, and/or a toddler, to create opportunities for conversations between neighbors, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

Like Robin, all we do in our new NJ town is tell everyone that we should close off a downtown street and create a pedestrian mall. If they build it, people will come! They will!

People really underestimate what else can be triggered by a change like this... they think: fewer cars, tougher parking, more outdoor seating, and a longer walk between the post office and the Mudhouse. Yeah, it's all those things, and more more more than you can imagine. The mall in Charlottetown is a key reason why I love my hometown and also why I miss it so much.

Check this page for some interesting history:



I've been trying (mostly by talking it up to friends) get something like this done since we moved here 30 years ago from Boulder Colorado. Look on Google images for Boulder, CO Pearl Street mall, to see what it could look like. While I heard all the arguments why this was a bad idea when it was proposed, as soon as it opened, it was full of people and 35? years later, it's still a great place for families to stroll, street performers, outdoor eating and lots more.

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