Downtown Mall / Amphitheater

East and West Main Streets
Charlottesville, VA

Submitted by: Webster Marquez

One of the few downtown pedestrian malls that bucked the trend and is still thriving.

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Why It Works

The space functions as an eight block long car-free central plaza, both intimate and expansive, complete with mature trees, sidewalk vendors, musicians, tourists, and townspeople. An amphitheater at the Mall's eastern end serves as a venue for weekly free concerts during the summer which can attract upwards of 5,000 people.

What Makes Downtown Mall / Amphitheater a Great Place?

The Downtown Mall functions much like a small scale Las Ramblas: a series of narrow, historic streets open up onto a lively central thoroughfare. The area is typically quite crowded with shoppers, professionals, tourists, and loiterers, so safety feels like a non-issue. Cars are banned from the Mall, but a municipal bus service and several parking garages supply transportation options.

The place makes a grand first impression, particularly on Friday nights, when locals, visitors, performers, and vendors, as well as patrons of multiple outdoor cafes fill the Mall. The people who use the Mall span a range of age and socioeconomic groups who all use the area as a safe and accessible public space. With so many people about (even into the wee hours of the morning) and a lack of cars, even women walking alone feel quite comfortable.

The space is continually filled with shoppers, diners, and people simply taking walks. A wide variety of restaurants, shops, offices, theaters, and public buildings line the length of Mall, making it a space where one can work, live and do business. Both ends of the Mall are widely used, though the West End typically feels a bit busier, for it is anchored by a multi-screen movie theater and public skating rink.

People who walk and linger on the Mall come alone and in groups; people of all groups seem like they are smiling and have a good time; and the various groups who use the Mall seem to be reflective of the larger community. The Mall is typically the first place in town shown to visitors and is used, often, as a complete night out: dinner, a show, and a pause at an outdoor bar for a delightful car-free evening.

History & Background

A multi-block section of Charlottesville's old Main Street was bricked over as a pedestrian mall in the 1970's in an effort to revitalize the downtown business district. 20 years later, while other cities' pedestrian malls have been removed, Charlottesville's is thriving.

Contact Info:

Charlottesville Visitors Center: (toll free) 877/386-1102

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