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16th Street Mall Reconstruction Update, Open Houses

Denver, RTD recommend 16th Street Mall design that would expand sidewalks,
improve pedestrian safety

If approved, project would repair infrastructure, enhance the Mall experience for all users. Construction likely to begin in 2019.

The City and County of Denver and the Regional Transportation District (RTD) are recommending a design for reconstruction of the 16th Street Mall that would expand sidewalks for walking, café seating and other activities, and move transit lanes to the center or offset-center of each block. These updates are designed to enhance the Mall experience for visitors while improving pedestrian safety and mobility on the city’s most transit-rich street.

The proposed design would update and modernize the Mall’s deteriorating infrastructure, while honoring its iconic look. It is a modified version of one of the options released in October 2017, refined this winter based on input from downtown workers, Mall businesses and the broader community.

Today’s announcement is a milestone in a broad effort to rethink the 16th Street Mall — one of the city’s most vital connectors and important public spaces. The 35-year-old Mall has aging infrastructure and rising maintenance costs, while seeing increasing numbers of transit users and pedestrians. This phase of Mall design is part of a federal process as outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA effort is led by the city and RTD, in partnership with the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) and the Federal Transit Administration. 

The design aims to enhance the Mall as a welcoming and active public space by eliminating the under-used median to make room for safe and comfortable walking, café seating, occasional special events and more.

Reconstruction will ensure the continued mobility and reliability of the Free MallRide buses. More than 40,000 riders take the Free MallRide each day, making the 16th Street Mall the busiest transit street in the RTD system. By 2035, the number of daily riders will exceed 70,000. With the updated design, the northeast- and southwest-bound buses would operate in adjacent lanes in the center of the Mall, shifting to slightly off-center lanes in the historically asymmetrical blocks.

The recommended alignment will improve safety for pedestrians by offering wider pedestrian zones, trees and historic lights as new visual and physical buffers between bus lanes and sidewalks, and fewer points where buses and pedestrians must cross paths.

The recommended design honors the iconic look of the Mall. It will retain the street’s patterned “carpet,” originally designed by landscape architect Laurie D. Olin of Hanna/Olin and architect Henry N. Cobb of I. M. Pei & Partners to evoke a Navajo blanket and the floor of the Pantheon. The recommended design includes more trees than exist on the Mall today, with a goal to expand the tree canopy in line with the 2017 Outdoor Downtown Plan for parks and public spaces.

Mall Reconstruction

Mall reconstruction will involve repairing and replacing the compromised sub-layer. It will therefore provide an opportunity to modernize and add to underground utilities (drainage, fiber, data, electric, etc.), which have been unreachable since 1982 when the street was constructed. This spring, Mall partners will publish an environmental assessment on the proposed action and its benefits and impacts. If the project is approved, phased reconstruction would begin in 2019 or early 2020 and finish in 2022.

Funding for the project will come from a variety of sources, including general obligation bond funds, tax increment financing, and Federal Transit Administration grant funding. 

Public Input Opportunities
On March 8, 2018, the city and RTD will host open houses where the public can learn more, ask questions and give input on future refinement of the design. Identical open house events will be offered at the following times:

16th Street Mall Design Open Houses
March 8, 2018
Noon - 1 p.m. or 5 - 6 p.m.
RTD Board Room

1660 Blake Street, Denver

Note: The public will have an opportunity to provide input on additional amenities and design features, and learn about construction activities, at an additional public hearing tentatively planned for May 2018.

Learn more at denvergov.org/themallexperience.

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