Biz owners demand 4th St. mall crossing

The Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville wants a mall crossing, and it wants it now. Undeterred by the Planning Commission voting down a 4th or 5th Street crossing January 10, the mad merchants will be beseeching City Council to open a 4th Street crossing for a one-year trial run at a City Council public hearing February 21.

5 comments

What a typical Charlottesville tempest in a teapot issue! It won't make much difference if
they do or don't open another crossing. Pedestrians on the mall will hardly be affected and the businesses won't see any changes, but the roar tomorrow night will make it sound like a very, very big deal indeed. Meanwhile at the end of the meeting, after everyone has left, City Council may well make a major decision affecting the future of Charlottesville's parks and
hardly anyone will notice.

I haven't shopped on the mall since the bricks were first laid. I can't even name five businesses presently on the mall. The merchants will see me when the roadway, main street parking and side streets are returned to what they were 25 or 30 years ago. /Steve

There are no "mad merchants," as written above, but real business owners and managers and customers who have been affected by the closing of 6th and 7th which was done by Council without public discussioon or due process. The Planning Commission vote was 5-2, and I was one of the 2 who voted in favor of a crossing. The downtown mall is a great place for all of us, but its vitality depends on the people unlike Steve above who come to it, enjoy it, frequent its restaurants and stores. It is not a public park or pedestrian "wonderland" - the reality is that most people get to the mall by car or bus. The crossing would add connectivity of being able to go north of the mall to south of the mall without having to get stuck in traffic on McIntire or go all the way down to 10th Street to get to Water. Council is required to take into consideration not only merchants needs but what is good for our City. Nice try characterizing this issue as a stampede of "mad merchants" - none of them are mad, but all of them care.

The downtown mall is one of very few spaces dedicated to pedestrian activity in Charlottesville. If motor vehicles are to be introduced into this pedestrian space, I would think it essential that a very strong case for the change be made. To date, I have seen no analysis of the benefits this mall crossing would have to the downtown merchants in return for the significant cost (approx. 1 million dollars in construction + more on maintenance) of city funds. The RK&K Engineers study funded by the city (approx. 30 thousand dollars) didn't even address the impacts the crossing would have on the pedestrian activity on the mall.
I recommend that the business community look at how to take advantage of the ever more pedestrian activity on the mall, rather than promote construction of a vehicle crossing that will degrade the pedestrian nature of the mall. I think the business community has not provided any reasonable justification for a vehicle crossing on the mall at either East Fourth St. or East Fifth St.
I believe the recommendation of the planning commission against approving the proposed crossing recognized the lack of information on the benefits of such a crossing. Their recommendation to take other actions including providing better signage now and only reconsidering a crossing after construction on the east end of the mall is complete is the best course of action.
I hope council will spend less time contemplating the anecdotal 'data' provided in favor of a crosing, and more time recruiting a qualified transportation/traffic engineer to provide a professional review of the pedestrian mall, and to recommend how the mall can best serve residents, visitors, and the business community.

Steve,
While you've been gone the Mall has turned into a vibrant and thriving business district. There were some rough times but not anymore. It's got a lot to offer and if you want to miss it, well that's your loss. There is plenty of parking available if you change your mind.
Kevin Cox