Denver’s 16th Street Mall – a transit way as much as a pedestrian mall – has had its ups and downs since it opened in the early 1980s.
The design by Henry Cobb of I.M. Pei & Partners is beautiful, with square pavers of various colored granite that form the pattern of a rattlesnake’s skin along the mall. But the pavers have caused issues since the beginning, popping up, cracking, and becoming slippery at times. The new environmental assessment released two weeks ago notes that maintenance for the RTD transit way cost $1.3 million in 2018.
I have no idea how many plans have been floated about the 16th Street Mall — but it’s a lot. There is a push to have people on the mall linger there, I guess to shop or dine or just hang out but not, um, loiter?
The City and County of Denver, RTD and the Downtown Denver Partnership want to rework the mall so that the transit lanes would run down the middle, which is now a seating area called an “amenity zone.” (The graphic above was part of a story on Streetsblog .) Moving the bus lanes to the center would create wider areas for pedestrians and seating outside restaurants. The plan would replace the existing pavers with “a new granite paver system with improved surface friction and proper drainage.”
(Ah, the pavers. Here’s some history on that, from a column from 2008: “But the stone slabs have been a pain in the budget for RTD since the mall’s 1982 debut. Two years later, RTD sued Pei’s firm and others involved in mall construction, claiming the pavers cracked and broke because of improperly designed expansion joints and badly mixed mortar. In 1987, the transit company collected $4 million to be used for repairs.”)
During the process of remaking the mall, the remaining trees would be removed, but new trees would be planted on both sides of the mall — a sore point because losing any trees in Denver is really problematic. Tearing up the existing mall also would have the potential of a negative impact on businesses along the mall and affect traffic on streets that cross the mall.
On Wednesday, May 1, RTD will hold two meetings so that members of the public can comment on the lengthy environment report addressing changes to the 16th Street Mall. The meetings are from noon to 1 p.m.,and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the boardroom at RTD’s office building, 1660 Blake Street. This environmental assessment is quite detailed — 183 pages — but for those who like the mix of a pedestrian mall and free shuttle service, the information is there. The comment period ends in mid-May, and the final report is expected in July.
Links below lead to the city’s website that includes the environmental assessment, previous meetings and reports, and how to make a comment on the document online. There also are links to coverage of the plan.