Winston-Salem Journal takes us back in time to urban planning fad circa 1970s—the pedestrian mall:

The initial Trade Street plan, unveiled in 1963, was grandiose. Everything in the blocks enclosed by Fourth, Fifth, Cherry and Liberty streets would come down. A two-story glass-roof concourse would enclose the path of Trade Street through the middle of the block. It would be called Piedmont Plaza, and it had a $23 million price tag.

It was to be a downtown shopping mall, essentially. That plan never got off the ground: It was “costly, controversial, and, some felt, too ambitious,” according to a news article from the 1960s.

A revamped plan that came out in 1967 fared better and guided redevelopment for the next 10 years or so.

….Many cities tried to tackle downtown decline by creating pedestrian malls out of city streets. But the conversion of Trade Street didn’t stop the bleeding of downtown retail and may have made it worse.

“It was not all that popular,” Yarbrough said. “That was still a time when businesses wanted to have parking spaces in front of their businesses.

That was part of the problem. I think the other thing was that Fourth Street was the main street. If you walked up Trade to Fifth and beyond there was not a whole lot going on. Pedestrian traffic didn’t feel much of a reason to walk up Trade Street.”

The Eckerd’s store in the Odd Fellows building closed. By 1974, other stores on the block were having going-out-of-business sales, according to one news report.

Sears, Belk and J.C. Penney all said they were going to go to Hanes Mall when it opened.

Yeah Raleigh tried it too when it turned Fayetteville Street into a “pedestrian mall.” The Capital City ended up doing the same thing the Camel City did—buying asphalt to pave over the mall and reopen it to traffic. Just goes to show that government’s been trying to get us out of cars for 50 years now. I’m not sure when they’re ver gonna get it— we Americans like the freedom our automobiles afford us.