“Downtown works because of a delicate balance, and a change like that one [creating a pedestrian mall on College Square] would certainly alter the dynamic.”
That’s the logic behind Kathryn Lookofsky’s reluctance to push for a pedestrian mall—or any other major use or design change—downtown, according to Kevan Williams’ latest development column in Flagpole.
Lookofsky, executive director of the Athens Downtown Development Authority (ADDA), is right to be cautious. When something as complex and fragile as a downtown in a small city works—as it does here in Athens—you’ve got to be very thoughtful, very circumspect about making big changes.
Which, according to Williams’ column, seems to be the approach that ADDA is taking as it explores the possibility of creating a master plan to help channel future growth downtown.
I’d like to add a cautionary note about caution: sometimes being too cautious can be a mistake.
For example, it’s possible a pedestrian mall that interferes only minimally with existing car traffic patterns and meshes well with existing pedestrian traffic isn’t really that big of a change. Successful pedestrian malls are rare, that’s true. But Athens might well have a spot where one could work. Such a mall would be a treasure, adding greatly to downtown vitality and distinctiveness. Take care with your caution not to miss golden opportunities!
[Photo credit: Flickr user Amber Rhea]