Today I took a leisurely walk around the Augusta Mall. Outside, that is. The walk convinced me that the mall has some serious potential, if they would make a few key changes.
It took about 40 minutes to get around the mall. Unfortunately I didn’t use my GPS so I’m not sure of the exact distance, but since I was probably going 2.8 mph, we’ll say it’s roughly a one and three quarters mile walk. That’s a nice distance for people who are just getting back into shape, but long enough that people can do several circuits without getting immediately bored.
However, there are places where walking is difficult. There are stairs in a few places that you’d have to go the long way around to avoid. And there isn’t always a sidewalk, so I had to occasionally make my way through parking lots or across the grass. I felt badly about the latter because the grounds at the mall are so beautiful–perfect scenery for a nice walk, with flowers, greenery, and lots of shady trees.
With that all in mind, I think the mall could benefit from designating a walking trail, perhaps in brick to match the existing outdoor promenade, with clearly-marked crossings and perhaps a tunnel or two for handicapped ramp access. This would not only enhance the storefronts of the larger shopping areas, but would also attract routine walkers to the mall.
People who might not initially be interested in shopping would be drawn to the scenery, safety, and convenience of walking at the mall. While walking inside the mall is possible, it’s not quite as appealing as being under the sun. It can get crowded, too, and interfere with store business. Creating a place right outside for walking would ease shopping traffic flow and give serious walkers more room.
The mall could then capitalize on the influx of serious walkers with water and sports drink vending machines, fitness kiosks, and signs directing walkers to healthy choices at the food court. They could even go a step further and offer a membership or pay-as-you-go gym right inside the mall. (There would probably need to be rules about showering before entering the mall proper.)
Another option would be to offer a full-service health spa, with massages and soaks and such.
Make the mall attractive in more ways than simply a place to buy things, and the people who come for one service might stay for another. The mall could become an oasis for Augusta living.