Denver and partners boost economic activity and safety downtown
Originally published by Denver Economic Development & Opportunity on August 29, 2022
City and civic partners boosting foot traffic, retail, businesses, and safety downtown
$2.8M in American Recovery Plan Act funds to fuel efforts to reimagine downtown as an inclusive, vibrant, and inviting place to work and play
DENVER – A new downtown recovery investment led by Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) and approved today by Denver City Council is directing $2.4M in a contract with the Downtown Denver Partnership (Partnership) and the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District to create an 18-month activation push involving investments in pop-up and existing businesses, restaurants and events, support for entrepreneurs, and design elements for crime prevention and reduction.
This program complements an earlier city contract for activities by VISIT DENVER to enhance downtown recovery through more marketing to support hotel bookings and drive visitors to restaurants, retail, museums, and attractions. That $400,000 investment, also made with ARPA funds, was made in April 2022.
“These two contracts support our new way of approaching the downtown market and its workforce, with innovative ideas to bring people back downtown to experience our urban core,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Downtown’s recovery is critical to our city’s recovery, and these activations will encourage community building for our residents, visitors, and local businesses.”
“Downtown’s pedestrian traffic for the month of May 2022 remained down 31% from May 2019 levels, which means we must do more to ensure the survival of downtown businesses and improve the economic resilience of the district long-term,” said DEDO Executive Director Jen Morris. “This program’s multi-pronged approach—across retail, restaurants, hotels, business startups, and the built environment– is essential for a strong recovery.”
“We are positioned to continue making downtown energetic, colorful, exciting, and fun again,” said Kourtny Garrett, DDP president. “Urban centers are evolving, and we need to support this change with bold ideas and big investments to build consumer confidence and create moments of serendipity, which is exactly how these funds will be directed.”
Denver’s downtown area is eligible to receive ARPA assistance based on the Denver Department of Finance’s Neighborhood Recovery Index, which considers a range of economic, health, and education data points to determine the city’s optimum applications for this unique, time-limited federal investment opportunity.
Together, the DDP and VISIT DENVER contracts will bring impact and create vibrancy across five activation approaches:
Retail: With a robust marketing campaign, DDP will support commercial real estate efforts to attract national key anchor tenants as the newly reconstructed downtown takes shape. To create a balance of local, unique, and national brands, the Popup Denver retail activation program will also be expanded. Tested as a pilot program in Fall 2021 exclusively in upper downtown, Popup Denver’s launch garnered 150 applications for just five vacant spaces.
Restaurants and Entertainment: A new roster of showcase events and promotions featuring local food, music, and art will be enhanced with an expansion of the “Outdoor Spaces” concept. These spaces encourage people to gather safely outdoors, enjoy pop-up activations, indulge in outdoor dining and live music and take respite throughout the year.
Business Activation: Both new and existing businesses along the downtown corridor will benefit from marketing and activations to brighten the spaces outside their storefronts. As the 16th Street Mall construction is ongoing, DDP will install construction fence wrapping that promotes, informs, and entertains visitors to the Mall.
Entrepreneurship: The Commons on Champa will get a technology audit and substantial equipment upgrades to further its success as Denver’s innovation hub supporting existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. DEDO’s Global Landing Pad program, which hosts global entrepreneurs looking to scale an international business here, will get six new dedicated spaces in The Commons for its visiting businesses.
Safety: The Denver Department of Safety added $500,000 to the DEDO contract to continue Denver’s investment in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) philosophy. This approach is based on the principles of natural access (guiding people via design on streets, sidewalks, building entrances, and landscaping); natural surveillance (maximizing visibility of people and activities through the design of physical features); territorial reinforcement (using design to express ownership with fencing, signage, and landscaping); and design that enables continued maintenance of space for its intended purpose.
Applied nationwide, a CPTED approach has shown that proper design and the effective use of the built environment can reduce public fear and the incidence of crime along with an improvement of the overall experience of using public spaces.
With quarterly analyses of metrics including downtown visitors, retail sales, hotel room occupancy, special events, and commercial tenant occupancy, all funds on both city contracts are to be expended by December 31, 2023.
About Denver Economic Development & Opportunity
Denver Economic Development & Opportunity works to ensure an inclusive and innovative economy for all Denver residents, businesses, and neighborhoods. Learn more at denvergov.org/economicdevelopment.
About the Downtown Denver Partnership
For more than 60 years, the Downtown Denver Partnership has convened, collaborated, and led a bold vision to build an economically vibrant, healthy, and growing center city for the benefit of all. With a bias for action, the Partnership invests for tomorrow and executes for today, converging the right people at the right time to make an impact. Learn more at downtowndenver.com.
About the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA)
Denver’s plan for recovery includes direct distribution of $308M in ARPA Local Relief Funds. Denver offers a dashboard to show precisely how ARPA funds are being deployed to support the mayor’s priority of Rebuilding for an Inclusive and Sustainable Economy (RISE) and a Recovery Index to demonstrate how our neighborhoods are recovering.