A block removed from the heart of Downtown Crossing one can still smell the food carts, bask in the glow of the holiday lights and feel the hustle and bustle of the approaching holiday season.

Also readily available is a sense that the once-vibrant shopping district is not what it used to be, for one specific reason.

“Business is just not the same since Filene’s closed down,” said Flor Agguire, who sells roasted nuts from a cart.

As plans to redevelop the old Filene’s site remain stalled, the area remains in flux. On this stretch of Washington there are a few chains - Quizno’s and Eddie Bauer, of note - but much of the Amory Building on the block’s north side awaits tenancy and the rest of the strip offers only a liquor store and a jewelry exchange.

There have been efforts to turn things around.

Handmade Holiday, a collection of works by area artisans, opens in time for the shopping rush. Its neighbors on either side are gutted but have lined their windows with the works of other local artists as part of Boston Art Windows, a city initiative which adorns empty space with art until it can be filled.