I was in Boston's Back Bay last weekend, and it struck me again how fortunate we are that the Copley Place mall was built to integrate into the neighboring community, not moat itself off. While "skywalks" often kill off the streetscape below, the walkways of Copley Place help pedestrians bridge rivers of traffic, and get to neighborhood shopping areas nearby. And if you live or work over Copley Place, you can go by foot to many different destinations in surrounding neighborhoods, including Newbury and Boylston Streets. The mall didn't kill off the nearby neighborhood retail center, one of the best urban pedestrian streetscapes in America. The Huntington Avenue streetscape could be better, but it still attracts pedestrians as well.
The revamped Natick Mall isn't finished yet, and I'm still waiting to see whether there will be any effort to integrate it into the surrounding neighborhoods. The most promising area is where the new Nordstrom's store comes close to Speen Street. Will there be an attractive pedestrian entrance from the Speen Street sidewalk into the store, and thus the mall? Or will it be like the rest of the mall, surrounding by asphalt parking with no attempt to create an appealing way to enter the area on foot? Will there be an effort to make an attractive, safe walking environment from the nearby hotels to the mall, or will it remain a hideous example of suburban sprawl, requiring a car to drive distances that you could walk in 5 minutes given a properly designed environment?
And what of the promises to connect the planned Cochituate Rail Trail to the mall, so people elsewhere in the area have a safe and attractive way to walk there -- not to mention giving people who move into the new mall condos a way to walk someplace besides the indoor stores?