DENVER (CBS4) – The City of Denver approved a $149 million plan to renovate the 16th Street Mall, the home of more than 300 downtown businesses. When the 16th Street Mall was built in 1982, it was designed for a 30 year life. It’s nearing 39 years without any major upgrades.

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“I remember when I was a kid, it was four lanes and heavy traffic. Since I’ve been working here, it’s just been getting busier and busier and busier. Until about a year ago. Then it all went south,” said Maggie White, store manager at Overland Sheepskin Co.

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White says the reduced foot traffic along the 16th Street Mall can only be partially blamed by COVID-19. She has heard from many customers who say they don’t feel comfortable coming downtown anymore.

“I talk to people from the suburbs and they say they don’t go downtown because it’s not safe, with all the ‘rioting and homeless people,’” said White. “They’re very put off by it and that’s a big problem.”

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The majority of retail space surrounding Overland near Writer’s Square is empty. White says more people are slowing starting to trickle back in, but their other store locations in the mountains are having a record sales year.

The city plans to address deteriorating infrastructure that often disrupts the transit system and costs $1.5M annually to maintain. Renovations will improve mobility, safety and increase opportunity for public use.

(credit: Downtown Denver Partnership)

The improvements involve a full reconstruction the Mall from Market Street to Broadway. One of the big changes will include a realigned and consolidated transitway creating more accessible pedestrian walkways. New amenity zones, expanded tree canopies and upgraded lighting will improve public space along the Mall.

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Some business owners have expressed concerns about construction keep customers away. The City of Denver will dedicate $300,000 to support 16th Street Mall businesses in 2021 through technical assistance, small businesses stabilization and the attraction of new mall tenants.

Tori Mason