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Most major Canadian cities, and a handful of American cities, have underground or above-ground walkway systems connecting buildings and businesses in their downtown areas. Here are some statistics on Toronto's "PATH" from the city of Toronto's website: http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/path/

-According to Guinness, it is the largest underground shopping complex of shopping arcades in the world with 27 linear km (16 linear miles) of retail, and approx. 4 million square feet of total retail space (that's all but more than a handful of entire downtowns in North America)

-1200 stores/restaurants (including 2 of the largest stores on the continent, possibly in the world)

-More than 50 buildings/office towers are connected through PATH. Twenty parking garages, five subway stations, two major department stores, six major hotels, and a railway terminal are also accessible through PATH. It also provides links to some of Toronto's major tourist and entertainment attractions such as: the Hockey Hall of Fame, Roy Thomson Hall, Air Canada Centre, The Sky Dome, and the CN Tower. City Hall and Metro Hall are also connected through PATH.

-There are more than 125 grade level access points and 60 decision points where a pedestrian has to decide between turning left or right, or continuing straight on. The average size of a connecting link is 20 metres (66 ft.) long by 6 metres (20 ft.) wide.

-(this is my own fact): the most recent building attached to PATH is downtown Toronto's newest office tower: 2 Queen Street East (Maritime Life Insurance), at 20 floors

-they don't list the amount of office space connected to PATH, but it's easily in the 10s of millions of square feet

-there is very little residential attached to PATH (because there is very little residential in the financial district), but 1 King West (51 stories, u/c) and Downtown Plaza (around 1000 feet, 1054 units) will be connected to PATH

-Here is a map of PATH: http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/path/pdf/path_brochure.pdf To give you a sense of scale, the "Toronto Coach Terminal" (along Bay Street) is about 1 mile North of the "Air Canada Centre" (also on Bay Street)


-Toronto has another walkway system at the North end of downtown (it's way North of PATH, so it's doubtful they will ever connect to each other). To my knowledge, this system (around Yonge/Bay/Bloor streets) has no official name (though it should, IMO). I've never seen any statistics for this walkway system, but I'd estimate about 250-300 or so stores/restaurants totalling maybe 1 million square feet of retail (including 2 dept. stores). It also connects at least 2 (maybe more, I'm not that familiar with it) subway stations, millions of square feet of office towers, hotels, etc.

-Toronto has many other underground "mini-cities" lined with retail all over the city. An emerging one is in North York City Centre. Eventually (already?) it is supposed to connect the Sheppard subway stop to the North York City Centre subway stop. The rest of these "mini-cities" lie underneath individual subway stops, some of them are 5+ miles from downtown.


-Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Houston, and Charlotte all have underground or aboveground "pathways" of various sizes. Share any statistics of any such systems that you have. Pictures would be nice too.

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Here are some facts regarding Calgary's "Plus 15" system. It uses 2nd story tunnels 15 feet above the ground to connect buildings. These are from http://content.calgary.ca/CCA/City+Transpo...+15/Plus+15.htm

-the largest system of it's kind in the world, over 16km (10 miles) and (57!) bridges

Here is a Plus 15 map: http://www.calgary.ca/DocGallery/BU/planning/pdf/15-map.pdf

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Map of Houston's:


Some facts from http://www.centralhouston.org/Data/Preview/Files/273532.XLS about the "main system"

-about 5 linear miles of underground and tunnels

-58 blocks served

-low retail/office ratio for some reason. Over 35 million square feet of office space, but less than 600,000 square feet of retail space

-more than 100,000 office workers with direct access

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We have very few of these in the northeast. The most notable in Boston is the skybridges linking Prudential Centre and Copley Place. Through a system of Skybridges and one tunnel one can walk from The Hynes Convention Centre near Mass. Ave. to Back Bay station entirely indoors. It's a somewhat circuitious route, so one would rarely walk the length of it, but several hotels, two malls a couple transit station along with the convention centre are linked to it.

In Providence there are some skybridges downtown which used to connect the department stores. The department stores are gone now, most being converted to loft style apartments and the bridges aren't used by the public. The Providence Place mall is conected to the Westin Hotel by a skybridge, and the Westin is connected to the convention centre. There are plans for another hotel which would have a skybridge to the convention centre.

New York also has very few skybridges, though lots of underground subway station connections. The biggest system of skybridges in New York was probably at the World Trade Centre.

I think Hartford has a few skybridges downtown.

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Map of Minneapolis' skyway system. Given this system's fame/notoreity, I found it disappointing and uninviting when I was in that city 3 years ago. I didn't walk the whole system mind you, but I did walk from the IDS Building to the Minneapolis Convention Centre.


Downtown St. Paul skyway map:


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Charlotte's Overstreet Mall was generally considered a big mistake by the city's planners.  It was patterned after the one in Minneapolis and constructed in the early 1970s and expanded until the 1990s.  The reason it has been considered a failure is that it greatly reduced the street level retail and activity during this period. 

What they didn't realize in the 1970s is that a city located in a warm climate such as Charlotte,  does not need an enclosed walkway system.  The climate is usually good enough all year that people are generally comfortable on the streets.  So as a result, the Overstreet has been reduced in size since the early 1990s and the focus has been in returning people to the streets.

I must agree. What was Charlotte trying to accomplish with an indoor over street mall? I love walking around out doors hearing the sounds, seeing the sights and smelling the food in the air. :P

Planned overhead walkways fuel debate

How do you develop street-level retail if nobody's on sidewalk?


Uptown Charlotte's overhead walkway system is being extended both north and south of The Square.

That's good news for many of the center city's 50,000 office workers, who use the "tunnels" to get from the parking deck to the office, grab a bite at lunch, make quick copies or pick up clothes from the cleaners.

But for urban planners, it's a different story. They see the overstreet connections through nine office buildings as a deterrent to uptown's efforts to develop strong street-level retail.

The critics tend to oversimplify the issue. The answer is obvious, they say. If you want shops and restaurant on the street, demolish the walkways.

The new additions are likely to add fuel to that debate.

Sensitive to criticism, developers have designed the new walkways to blend street-level shops with the overhead network, collectively known as the Overstreet Mall, by funneling pedestrians down to the ground.

For uptown employers, the Overstreet Mall, crammed with services and amenities, provides a way to compete for workers against suburban office parks offering free parking outside their buildings.

The first walkways were installed in the early 1970s after Charlotte leaders toured Minneapolis' skywalk system.

Those leaders believed the Overstreet Mall helped uptown survive the loss of key anchors such as Belk and Ivey's department stores by providing "service retail" as an amenity.

The overhead system also offered shelter from bad weather and a sense of security for people uncomfortable about walking outside to parking lots after dark.

At a time when uptown is pushing to recruit new employers, leaders probably should think twice about eliminating a key attraction to workers who could easily find a job in the suburbs.

It is true that most of uptown's retail businesses - more than 100 in all - are concentrated along the elevated walkway between the 300 block of South Tryon and 200 block of North Tryon.

And getting some of them down to street level will be a challenge.

The newest walkway - taking shape over Second Street between the First Union atrium and Three First Union - will lead people through the lobby and end with a connection to ground-level shops and restaurants at The Ratcliffe condominiums.

"There will be no retail inside the walkway," said Tom Dorsey, a senior vice president in the corporate real estate department of what's now called Wachovia.

The condos, which face The Green, the bank's 1.5-acre park and underground-parking garage in the 400 block of South Tryon, will have an entrance that allows pedestrian traffic to flow to and from the park and the 24,000 square feet of shops.

The new connector is due to open in mid-January.

Dorsey said Childress Klein Properties, which developed Three First Union, asked city permission to extend the walkway over Second Street because tenants signed leases in the building based on the connection being in place as an amenity.

Similarly, Bank of America plans to reopen the former CityFair skywalk over Fifth Street to the 60-story corporate center when the 46-story Hearst Tower is completed early next year.

The tower will have 50,000 square feet of retail space on three levels, one of which will link its lobby and outdoor plaza to Founders Hall in the corporate center.

Bank officials see the overhead walkway as essential to connecting its various office buildings and parking garages for both its employees and tenants.

But they plan to put the retail emphasis not at the Overstreet Mall level but at street level in the 200 block of Tryon, where the front entrance to the tower will be lined with restaurants, shops, sculptures and public seating in a large outdoor plaza.

The idea is to steer people from the upper level down to the food, entertainment and shops on the ground.

Officials see the plaza as a shared public space, "a compact version of Rockefeller Center in New York."

It remains to be seen how these efforts to blend street-level and overhead walkway-level retail will shake out. But at least someone is trying.

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