At a recent Charlottesville City Council meeting, Richard Berman commented during the 'matters from the public' period that the downtown pedestrian mall has become a "pedestrian obstacle course" because of all the vendor spaces, cafe spaces, signs, and other fixtures. But, on Saturday July 14, 2007 about 2:00 pm I was walking on the east end of the downtown pedestrian mall and could go no further than the barriers placed across the mall by the city hall entrance. I asked one of the folks behind the barrier why I couldn't walk further on the mall. His reply was that there was a concert that night and that the barriers were put up about 12:30 pm.
What is up with this? The concert wasn't until that evening. Some sound and stage equipment was being unloaded on the stage area while I was there, but there seemed to be no reason that the public space needed to be blocked as best I could tell - especially with so many hours until actual show time.
I commented on the use of this space as part of my May 21, 2007 Squeaky Wheel column entitled "Pavilion creep: Speak up about Mall takeover" in the HooK. Not only hasn't the use of that space been reconsidered now that the construction of the Transit Center is completed as planned, but it appears the hours that the mall is closed to pedestrians has been extended.
Charlottesville's comprehensive plan recently approved unanimously by the planning commission expresses the need to enhance pedestrian opportunities throughout the city. Allowing the pedestrian mall to be closed all afternoon for no apparent reason is clearly not consistent with enhancing pedestrianism.
The photo above was taken at about 2:00 pm and there was absolutely no activity behind the barriers that would be affected by pedestrians walking on the brick pathways or connecting to Avon Street to go toward Belmont. Does this imply that the east end of the mall will be closed to pedestrians for all of the weekend afternoons when there is a Pavilion concert that night? I hope not, and I will check that out as best I can with Pavilion management and city staff. Walking through an obstacle course is can be challenging, but being stopped at barriers on a sunny Saturday afternoon fo no apparent reason goes well beyond that for me. I was not the only surprised pedestrians. While I got my camera to shoot the photo, a pedestrian couple also seemed to be concerned that they couldn't walk beyond the barricade to their destination further east from there.