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Denver and RTD to expand 16th Street Mall analysis

Federally-mandated study could open the door to new design possibilities for the Mall

The City and County of Denver and the Regional Transportation District (RTD) will expand a current federally-mandated alternatives analysis of the 16th Street Mall, with an eye on potential reconfiguration to optimize the corridor for transit, pedestrians and leisure activities.

The expanded analysis could result in recommendations for new shuttle lane alignments, sidewalk enhancements, expanded seating and other amenities, and alternate surface materials, or a recommendation to maintain the Mall as-is.

Separate mall studies on placemaking and shuttle-lane surface materials led officials to identify a need for this comprehensive alternatives analysis. Both studies — The Mall Experience, a study by the City and County of Denver and the Downtown Denver Partnership, and RTD’s recent environmental and cultural evaluation of the transit lane surface materials — will inform the expanded review.

The 16th Street Mall is an important transit corridor, and the heart of Denver’s vibrant downtown. Up to 45,000 riders use the Free MallRide each weekday. At the same time, the Mall has yet to reach its full potential as a welcoming place for all people with great pedestrian infrastructure, seating areas that are inviting, and spaces that function well for special events.

“We’re excited to work together with our partners at RTD to enhance the Mall experience for pedestrians, while maintaining and improving a valuable transit corridor,” said Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development.

“This is a very important next step in helping to determine the future alignment and surface materials to best serve our passengers and all users of the 16th Street Mall for the next long chapter of its successful and useful life,” said Dave Genova, RTD general manager and CEO.

Because the Mall was built in 1982 with federal funds, any potential modifications must undergo a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and a cultural resources evaluation pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). The City and County of Denver will apply to the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) for funds from the downtown tax increment financing district to fund the NEPA and 106 processes and concept design.

The analysis is expected to take about a year. The public will be invited to review conceptual designs. Any design implementation that may come as a result of this process would be several years off.

Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) CEO Tami Door said, “The Downtown Denver Partnership has been committed to the 16th Street Mall since playing a key role in its inception. We continue to make a significant ongoing investment, with the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District, to fund maintenance and safety efforts, implement powerful place making initiatives, and drive retail. We will remain a strong advocate for efforts that ensure its sustainable future as one of our city’s most vital connectors and important public spaces. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, including the city and RTD, as we take this important next step to sustain the Mall’s great legacy as a cultural anchor and economic engine for the entire city.”

Over the last two years, the city and the DDP have worked together on The Mall Experience: The Future of Denver’s 16th Street Mall, a study involving Gehl Studio to identify ways to help the Mall reach its full potential as a welcoming place for everyone. The study analyzed placemaking initiatives to help identify the best ways to bring more people to the Mall more often and have them stay longer. Analysis of temporary design alternatives and community-led programming during the past two summers of Meet in the Street, funded by the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District and produced by the Partnership, have helped planners identify the need for long-term changes to the Mall’s infrastructure to support its role as a vibrant and active public space.

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BUILDING COMMUNITY: Denver Community Planning and Development (CPD) is responsible for visionary city planning and ensuring safe, responsible, sustainable building. CPD regulates planning, zoning, development and maintenance of private property in Denver. We're working hard to make Denver a great place to live, work and play! Visit DenverGov.org/CPD or follow us on Twitter at @DenverCPD.