Fulton Mall’s success offers clues as to why only two dozen of 200 pedestrian malls remain from the boom a half century ago. The future of the pedestrian mall is not in trying to save downtown merchants by bringing new shoppers in, but in improving the experience for the shoppers who are already there. To start with, this means not disdaining the people spending money, especially when downtown stores historically served a broad racial and economic spectrum.
As always with urban design, there are multiple social, economic, and design factors at play in the success of shopping districts, which is why raising pedestrian malls as a boogeyman doesn’t make sense in the first place. But three factors stand out: foot traffic, anything-but-car access, and amenities beyond retail.