The Evolution of the 16th Street Mall

by Jill Locantore on March 17, 2016

16th_St_Median_DEN-web

Project aims to make the Mall a destination and a place of community

Article by WalkDenver Board member Jennifer Addair

Anyone familiar with Denver knows of the 16th Street Mall, Denver’s signature pedestrian mall which opened in 1982. The 16th Street Mall is both a significant pedestrian corridor and important transit connection, transporting 45,000 people each weekday on the Free Mall Shuttle. Denver has changed significantly in the 34 years since the Mall opened, and the Mall needs to evolve along with the changing needs of the city.

Recognizing this need, Denver Community Planning and Development and the Downtown Denver Partnership have been collaborating with Gehl Studio on a project named: “Activate Denver’s Urban Core: The Mall Experience.” Many people use the Mall as a convenient thoroughfare, but only 1% of pedestrians linger on the Mall.  This project aims to make 16th Street Mall a true destination and a place of community.

Key aspects of this process included measuring current activity on the Mall, performing tests to identify changes that work and what doesn’t work, and then refining plans. Measuring and testing included the unique Meet in the Street events, analysis of activities occurring on the Mall, and data on the age and gender of the Mall’s users. Meet in the Street Sundays involved a variety of activities, additional seating at restaurants and in the median, and moving the Free Mall Shuttle to adjacent streets, converting the Mall into a pedestrian and bike-only zone. The following photos demonstrate the differences between the Mall on a normal day and a Meet in the Street Sunday.

Normal Day on 16th Street Mall Credit Gehl Studios

Photo Credit: Gehl Studios

Meet in the Street 2105 Credit Gehl Studios

Photo Credit: Gehl Studios

Participating as a data-gatherer for the study, I observed first-hand some of the differences between Meet in the Street Sundays and baseline Sundays. Compared to a normal Sunday, a Meet in the Street Sunday had many positive outcomes for 16th Street Mall, such as:

  • 30% increase in pedestrians
  • 60% increase in stationary activities and an improved ratio of people staying on the Mall compared to just moving through
  • Greater age and gender diversity
  • 90% of businesses experienced improved or similar sales

These quantitative results were also evident qualitatively, through a feeling of increased energy, safety, and longer-length pedestrian activity with more people willing to walk longer compared to a baseline Sunday.” Compare this photograph of a normal day:

16th Street Mall Shuttle Credit Gehl Studios

Photo Credit: Gehl Studios

To the energy and life of a Meet in the Street day:

Meet in the Street 2015 Potential Credit Gehl Studios

Photo Credit: Gehl Studios

The study suggests that providing a “strong pedestrian connection across 16th Street” is very important to the success of the Mall. This connection could be provided through intersections that are enhanced for pedestrian safety, designate the importance of 16th Street, and make it easier for people to traverse the length of the Mall.

As part of the ongoing planning process, Meet in the Street is being expanded in 2016 to both weekend days for five consecutive weekends. It will be exciting to see how Meet in the Street continues to develop, and participate in the evolution of 16th Street Mall, particularly its development to become a premier pedestrian corridor and destination.

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