The 16th Street Mall buses are back in business, but with big changes still coming in the future of the Mall.

Mall bus Screen Shot 2020-06-22 at 10.17.54 AM

Just like a vampire eventually emerges in the dark, Denver has been working on the reconstruction of the 16th Street Mall. It’s been so quiet, but at last week’s meeting of the Finance and Governance Committee of Denver’s City Council, the Mall is back in the light.

At this meeting, the committee needed to vote to accept several million dollars to be spent on reconstructing the 16th Street Mall. The entities involved at that meeting were RTD, Denver Water, and the Denver Urban Renewal Authority.

The last time we heard about the Mall was in late February, when there were meetings involving people in high places to discuss how to go forward with the project. There also were two open houses on February 27 to show citizens what the changes would look like. I attended the second one, and had a lot of questions, which were answered by a staff person from Jacobs, but I am concerned about the re-alignment of the bus lanes.

The crux of it is, the bus lanes will be moved to the middle, to add wider sidewalks for pedestrians and kiosks. The granite pavers will be taken out, but replaced, to again have some reference to the design created by the original architect, Henry Cobb of I.M. Pei & Partners, with landscape architect Laurie Olin. The design made the Mall’s pavers look like the skin of a rattlesnake. Trees will be replaced, and a lot of new infrastructure will replace water pipes under the surface. Many thanks to Historic Denver for putting its foot down to again insist useing granite pavers.

Then, with March, things went dark. I would suppose those working on this massive reconstruction project were busy, but there were so many other issues getting more coverage. Oh, like a pandemic, with major health concerns. And then there were protests here (and around the world) because African American citizens were being murdered at the hands of the police. The fall-out was incredible, with the need to change the long-held systemic racism and police brutality in our country — and city.

At the meeting last week, these were the topics that were under discussion:

  • 20-0560: Approves an intergovernmental agreement with the Regional Transportation District (RTD) for $12,828,834 for the contribution of Federal funding for the Reconstruction of the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall and Transitway in Council District 9.
  • 20-0561: Approves an interagency agreement with Denver Water and establishes a capital fund and an appropriation for the reimbursement of $5,454,776 for work completed on water lines during the Reconstruction of the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall and Transitway in Council District 9.
  • 20-0562: Amends the Downtown Denver Improvements Project Funding Agreement with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to revise submittal and reimbursement dates to align with the 16th Street Mall reconstruction project schedule, as well as updates workforce requirements to support.

It was an interesting discussion, because there also will be public restrooms installed, although the plan is not included in the design-build contract, so that needs to be worked out. (But committee members noted this was a good idea – for everybody.)

The first two topics sailed through, in terms of accepting money from RTD and Denver Water (after all, one of the pipes under the mall dates from the 1880s). But then there was the vote on the DURA money, which includes tax increment funding in that part of Denver. City Council District 9 Representative Candi CdeBaca noted that the goals of the project don’t match the “current conditions” and “address the needs of the city. After all, the city’s budget has been hit hard, with stores and restaurants closed for several weeks and unexpected funding for critical issues.

Denver would get more than $20 million from DURA on the Mall project. Denver Public Schools and urban drainage also would get funding from DURA. Other members of the committee voted to accept the DURA money, but Council Representative CdeBaca voted against the concept of accepting the DURA funds for the Mall.

The next step? It would be helpful if there are more meetings where we learn more about the timeline for the Mall. At one point, it seemed the work would begin in 2021. The upheaval of remaking the Mall will be intense. Still, according to RTD, the Mall buses are running again, as per a story last week in The Denver Post. (The image at the top of this post is from that story.)

Below are several links. The first is to the Finance and Governance Committee via Granicus. There’s been a change, though. In the past, it was possible to get a link straight to a meeting; now the link goes to a list of all of the committees, so it is necessary to pick the right committee (1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, Finance and Governance). The other links lead to information from the The Mall Experience posted on the city’s website, the Downtown Denver Partnership information on the Mall, and various publications, including that story last week in The Denver Post.

Money Screen Shot 2020-06-17 at 2.53.46 PM

 

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