Saturday, July 01, 2006

Downtown Mall Anniversary

The City and the Downtown Business Association are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Mall.

Last night there was a presentation and discussion of the history of the mall in council chambers, to be rebroadcast on Ch 10. Participating were the two councilors who voted for the mall, Mitch Van Yahres and Charles Barbour (the other three councilors - Francis Fife, George Gilliam and Jill Rinehart - had conflicts of interest and abstained, although all were in favor), former City Manager Cole Hendrix and Planning Director Satyendra Huja, and Al Clements, a banker who led the committee for the mall.

John Shepherd showed some of the photos he took in 1976 of Main Street, just before mall construction.

The photos show the decline of downtown and why city leaders took the bold move, over much local (business) opposition, of a pedestrian Mall. Mitch's wife Betty said they received 100 calls the night before the meeting in opposition to the plan.

None of these leaders quite envisioned the mall the way it has evolved - especially the restaurant and entertainment scene (Al Clements jokingly referred to it as a food court) - and all admit to a time, maybe 15 years ago, when they were worried - vacancies and few people.

Check out the celebratory activities, next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.


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