The 16th Street Mall in Denver is a major commercial street in the heart of Denver’s commercial district. Though long considered a tourist destination and a critical link from the downtown to the Civic Center, in reality, the space lacked abundant foot traffic and served more as a transit corridor. Retailers found it hard to stay in business there and safety concerns plagued the street. Meanwhile, the city spent millions on maintenance and repair with little return on investment. In 2014, a potential injection of significant federal funds for capital improvements instigated the need for multiple stakeholders, from the downtown association to the historic preservationists to the transit agency, to come to an agreement about the future of 16th Street Mall.
To inspire collaboration for a transformation, the Downtown Denver partnership created a temporary pilot project for the Mall. The project would both move a conversation forward with the area’s various stakeholders and demonstrate the space worthy of further investment. Beginning with just two Sundays in 2014, four Sundays in 2015, and finally five weekends in 2016, the bus shuttle on the mall was temporarily rerouted elsewhere and space on 16th Street was activated with seating and a wide range of locally produced art, food, and cultural programs.