Charlottesville's Downtown Mall is one of the centerpieces of Charlottesville. Created in the 1970's and open to the public on July 3, 1976, the pedestrian walkway has become a tourist destination as well as a defining element of Charlottesville's civic culture. It is bordered on the west end by the Omni Hotel, and on the east end by the Charlottesville Pavilion.
According to local historian Coy Barefoot, the first public reference to the idea for converting Main Street to a pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville came from a committee report of the Chamber of Commerce on October 29, 1959.
A Daily Progress story published that day includes the following:
- "The Parking and Traffic Committee of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Chamber of Commerce recommended today that city officials be asked to make a study of turning downtown Main Street into a mall restricted to pedestrians. This would mean removing the pavement on Main Street and replacing it with walkways and gardens."
- "W.A. Rinehart III, chairman of the committee, said the group will report to the board that while 'there is great interest in the idea of a mall here, nothing should be done until we can solve the traffic and parking problems that would result from it.'"
The mall was created as a way to revitalize the city's central core. City political and business leaders were concerned that the downtown area was declining due to retail developments such as the Barracks Road Shopping Center, which was growing at a much faster rate than downtown.
An organization called the Central City Commission was formed to explore ways to attract more people back downtown. The commission and City Council worked with the firm Lawrence Halprin & Associates to develop plans for what would become the mall. Council voted 2-0 to approve the plans on March 18, 1974. Three members of Council had to recuse themselves because opponents of the project alleged they had a conflict of interest.
There was significant initial opposition to the mall project, with it described as "a boondoggle, a $2 million mistake, [and] a gift to the ungrateful merchants of Main Street."
Local Voices, Local History
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2009 Mall Renovation Project
The Mall was overhauled under a $7.5 million project that was subject to some debate.
On July 21, 2008 voted to proceed with a design being shepherded by MMM Design. The City promised that the work would be done in five months beginning in January, with the project being overseen by construction management firm Barton Malow. Block captains volunteered to help the City develop a construction schedule that minimized the impact on businesses. Council allocated $50,000 to help pay for marketing efforts to emphasize to the public that the mall will be open during the renovation.
Comparison to other pedestrian malls
There are other pedestrian malls in the United States. A group of 19 people from the County, City and the Chamber of Commerce visited Burlington, Vermont in mid-October 2002 to study their pedestrian mall. 
In 2012, the Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects designated the mall as an a "2012 Iconic Landscape." 
- ↑ Barefoot, Coy. Interview by Brian A. Wheeler. Charlottesville Right Now with Coy Barefoot. WINA AM 1070, Charlottesville, VA, 25 Aug. 2009. Radio.
- ↑ "Study of Main Street Mall Proposed by Chamber Unit." The Daily Progress [Charlottesville] 29 Oct. 1959. Print.
- ↑ Brunet, Kathleen. "Charlottesville Mall Works for Downtown." Free Lance-Star [Fredericksburg] 11 Nov. 1986: 23. Google News. Web. 14 Apr. 2010. <http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Ye0QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=F4wDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4507%2C1962707>.
- ↑ Gumb, Dana. "Mall a Reality for Downtown." Cavalier Daily 27 Mar. 1973: 1. Google News. Web. 14 Apr. 2010. <http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OKIcAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4GgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6138%2C3276499>.
- ↑ Tubbs, Sean J., and Brian A. Wheeler. "Former Councilors Share Memories of Early Days of Downtown Mall." Audio blog post. Charlottesville Tomorrow. Charlottesville Tomorrow, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2010. <http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2010/04/former-councilors-share-memories-of-early-days-of-downtown-mall-.html>.
- ↑ Print: Physical Growth, Social Strain Mark City's Year, Peter Bacque, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises January 4, 1976, Page D1.
- ↑ Council agrees to half of $100,000 request for Downtown Mall marketing effort, Sean Tubbs, October 9, 2008, retrieved 10-21-2008
- ↑ Charlottesville City Council Minutes, 6 Jan. 2003. City of Charlottesville, Virginia. Retrieved 14 Jun 2009.
- ↑ Web. Downtown Mall to be honored Thursday, Daily Progress Staff Reports, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, September 30, 2012, retrieved October 8, 2012.
- ↑ Web. Ambassadors a second set of eyes and ears on the Downtown Mall, Aaron Richardson, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, May 6, 2013, retrieved May 6, 2013.