Town Square

Make University Ave. University Plaza

Original post made by Paul Losch, a resident of Palo Alto, on Nov 25, 2010

I just finished reading an article in Esquire magazine about initiatives in New York City to establish plazas in such parts of Manhattan as Times Square, Union Square, Madison Square, along with some commentary about downtown Portland Oregon. I also am personally familiar with Pearl Street Mall in Boulder Colorado. All these venues were once major auto corridors and now are pedestrian only.

I think University Avenue in Palo Alto is a candidate for this sort of transformation. It is an awful street to drive on, and those of us who live in town know better. Hamilton and Lytton are much better ways to get between Middlefield and Alma.

I also am of the point of view that this could be just the thing to help revitalize a moribund downtown Palo Alto. Too many store fronts have sat empty for years. Too many retail shops that are not “chains” come and go in too short a time. The Esquire article indicates that retail sales in Time Square are up 71% since it went “plaza!”

Such an idea needs a champion or champions to make it happen. I would be such a champion if I did not have a day job. But I would be willing to be part of a group that advocates this idea.


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Posted by much more inviting
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I think that would make University Avenue much more inviting to shoppers from the surrounding neighborhoods. Will the businesses along the street support it? They seem to be more interested in out-of-town drive-in shoppers than the local residents.

Maybe Palo Alto can start by making California Ave. a pedestrian mall? That's a lower risk project. If we build a pedestrian bridge over the Caltrain tracks, I bet all kinds of people would walk over to California Ave. to visit the shops and restaurants in a pedestrian-oriented district.

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Posted by here we go again
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

We go over this topic a couple of times a year. Here's a thread from 2007: Web Link

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 26, 2010 at 4:09 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I like the idea. We enjoyed the Pearl Street Mall when we visited Boulder.

There would probably be extra traffic on Hamilton and Forest where we live and work and some need for more parking structures downtown. I can support that if the idea is viable for making University Avenue better serve the community.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 27, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Paul, the idea of turning University Avenue into a pedestrian mall is not new; in fact the City Council has been approached about it before. I was informed that because University Avenue is the main roadway into Stanford, Stanford would vehemently oppose such an idea.

However, I'm all for it but you are in a better position than most to pursue the idea but don't be surprised if it gets shot down.

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Posted by radar
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I seem to remember from my formative years that at one point Uiversity was made "one-way" and Hamilton and Lytton were made into oneway belt loops - University Ave businesses all suffered reductions in business and the experiment was abandoned.

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Posted by Alex Panelli
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2010 at 11:27 am


Hope that you are well.

I think that it is a great idea. Boulder is a fine example.

I, too, seem to remember that this idea has been explored in the past. I do not recall what the conclusion (if any) was...I am sure that there are some valid objections that would need to be addressed.