Environmental Process Begins to Determine the Future of the 16th Street Mall
The Downtown Denver Partnership joined its 16th Street Mall Partner organizations, including the City and County of Denver (City), Regional Transportation District (RTD), Downtown Denver Business Improvement District (BID), Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to announce the kick off of the environmental process to determine the future of the Mall.
The Mall is one of our city’s most vital connectors and important public spaces, and as the recipient of federal funding, it must comply with an environmental process as outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The process to identify and consider social and environmental impacts when reviewing alternatives begins today with a three-day workshop for participating agencies to determine a guiding vision that will inform options for its future. The process could result in a plan for reconfiguration to optimize the 1.2-mile corridor that is used for transit, pedestrians, retail and leisure activities.
The future of the 16th Street Mall is a key priority for the Downtown Denver Partnership.
Background: The 2007 Downtown Area Plan identifies the 16th Street Mall as the premier pedestrian environment in the Rocky Mountain Region, an economic engine of Downtown Denver, and a linchpin for RTD’s regional transit network. The Partnership has been committed to every aspect of the Mall’s internationally-renowned design, construction and governance since its inception, partnering with the City and RTD on its initial planning in 1976 through its construction and opening. Since opening in 1982, we have made significant annual investments to enhance the experience on the Mall in place making, safety, and maintenance programs while leading efforts to sustain its great legacy.
Investment: Today, the Partnership and the BID invest more than $2 million dollars annually for daily maintenance and cleaning, including approximately 35 clean team members on duty during a 24-hour period, funding social service outreach, and managing the Downtown Security Action Plan and the private security team on the Mall. The Mall is a powerful economic engine home to nearly 200 retailers and restaurants, including more than 40 sidewalk cafes, and generates nearly 40 percent of sales tax in Downtown Denver.
As a public right-of-way owned by the City, the physical infrastructure of the Mall is a key component to the experience. RTD, the City and the BID invest about 1.5 million dollars each year on the maintenance of the Mall’s 400,000 pavers, and RTD invests $12 million annually on the Free MallRide shuttle service, to serve as many as 45,000 passengers per day.
Planning for the Future: The Mall is now 35 years old, and was originally designed for a life-span of 30 years. As its infrastructure continues to deteriorate, we are seeing and feeling the need for a clear plan for its future. Throughout the Mall’s lifecycle, we have embarked on a strategic and coordinated effort to inform how we steward its successful future. This has included the 2008 Urban Land Institute study, the 2009 Technical Assessment and Rehabilitation Study, the 2010 16th Street Urban Design Plan, and most recently we joined with the City for The Mall Experience study which has given us a better understanding of the holistic user experience on the Mall.
The Mall is in need of repair and an actionable plan for a sustainable future, and equipped with this impressive collection of data and information, we are excited to begin this critical next step.
Read below for the press release announcing the next phase of the project and learn more at denvergov.org/themallexperience.
City, RTD and partners kick off environmental process to determine the future of Denver’s 16th Street Mall
The City and County of Denver and the Regional Transportation District (RTD) are officially kicking off the next phase of planning for the future of the 16th Street Mall as one of the city’s most vital connectors and important public spaces. The effort is in partnership with the Downtown Denver Partnership (Partnership), the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District (BID), the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Since this project is the recipient of federal funding it must comply with an environmental process as outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires that the project partners identify and consider social and environmental impacts when reviewing potential alternatives. The process will begin today with a three-day workshop for participating agencies to determine a guiding vision that will inform options for the Mall’s future. The process could result in a plan for reconfiguration to optimize the 1.2-mile corridor that is used for transit, pedestrians, retail and leisure activities.
Previous studies have helped Mall partners identify the need for long-term changes to the Mall’s infrastructure to enhance its role as a vibrant and active public space. This environmental process provides the opportunity to build on the unique history of the Mall, and its important role as a transit and pedestrian corridor and public space, in order to deliver a successful experience for the next 35 years and beyond.
“The 16th Street Mall is a vital public space in our great city,” said Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development. “Now is the time to set a course for the Mall’s future.”
The federally-mandated study could open the door to a variety of design possibilities including new shuttle lane alignments, sidewalk enhancements, expanded seating and other placemaking concepts, alternate surface materials, or a recommendation to maintain the Mall as-is.
“The 16th Street Mall is Downtown’s main street and ensuring its successful future is critical to achieve our vision of an economically powerful center city,” said Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. “With nearly 200 retailers and restaurants, and more than 1,200 residences and 1,400 hotel rooms, the 16th Street Mall is an economic engine that fuels the entire city.”
The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017. If a preferred option emerges and the project is approved by the FTA, the project could move into design. Initial project funding will come from tax increment financing (TIF) via DURA, as well as the FTA. TIF funding requires that a design project be identified by 2020 and completed by 2022. If approved by voters, 2017 General Obligation Bonds might also be applied as the project heads into construction.
RTD CEO Dave Genova believes the outcome of this process will be the catalyst for the continued success of the Mall. “The Free MallRide is an iconic piece of the downtown experience, moving 14 million people safely along this corridor every year,” he said. “This project will build on the Mall’s success as a transit way while ensuring it can meet the needs of all Mall users.”
The public is invited to engage with the project team on July 22 at Meet in the Street, a program funded by the BID and produced by the Partnership. Two public open houses are also tentatively scheduled for July 27. Additional information about public engagement opportunities will be posted to the project website as details become available, at denvergov.org/themallexperience.
Attracting tens of thousands of visitors, employees and others to metro Denver daily, the 16th Street Mall has been at the center of the Downtown Denver experience for nearly 35 years. The Free MallRide service also provides a critically important transit connector for locals and visitors to the region, moving 45,000 people daily during the week along the Mall. The 16th Street Mall is a primary corridor and public space for downtown Denver’s 130,000 employees and 22,000 residents and is home to approximately 200 street-level retailers and restaurants, 1,250 residential units, and more than 1,400 hotel rooms. Building off this success, the City and County of Denver, the Regional Transportation District, the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority and the Federal Transit Administration are partnering to deliver the future of Denver’s 16th Street Mall.