In Denver, Colorado, the city’s decade-long process to reimagine, reconstruct, and revitalize the 16th Street Mall from Broadway to Market Street is moving forward to final design and construction. A $149 million design/build contract with PCL Construction Services has been signed and executed following approval by the Denver City Council on March 8, 2021.
As documented in the groundbreaking 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, the 16th Street Mall is one of the earliest, largest and most successful pedestrianization initiatives in the U.S. But, as the book also points out, even revitalized places need revitalization: it should be an ongoing process, not an occasional project.
It’s been nearly 40 years since Denver took the bold step of transforming a downtown street into an iconic outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment destination. This project marks the first major renovation of this vital downtown corridor since its opening in 1982.
“This investment in our iconic 16th Street Mall will stimulate our economy by supporting more than 1800 jobs and result in nearly $4 billion in regional economic impact,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said.
“The project will revitalize this critical piece of our downtown, move our city from rescue to recovery, and make significant safety, mobility and accessibility improvements so all people can enjoy the 16th Street Mall for many decades to come,” he added.
In 2019, the city gained approval from the Federal Transit Administration to move forward with a preferred alternative that reconfigures the layout of the Mall by eliminating the center median and moving the free MallRide Shuttles to run parallel in the center of the Mall, creating wider sidewalks and a new amenity zone area for increased activation of the outdoor space.
In January 2021, the City and County of Denver selected PCL Construction Services as the design/build firm to carry out the 16th Street Mall Improvement Project following an evaluation of proposals submitted by shortlisted firms.
With the contract approved, the project now moves into the final design phase with some initial enabling construction expected to start in the last quarter of 2021. Once final design is completed, construction is expected to start in full sometime in mid-2022 beginning at Market Street and moving toward Broadway in phases before reaching completion in late 2024. Full details on timing and phasing will occur during the final design process.
“The 16th Street Mall transitway is one of the busiest transit corridors in our system and we are excited to work alongside the city on this landmark project to improve safety, mobility, and reliability along the Mall transitway for our customers, residents, workers, and visitors,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson.
“We will continue to work closely with the City as the project moves through final design and into construction to ensure customers continue to have input and are updated with the latest information on this transformational project,” she continued.
A primary driver for the Mall improvement project is the need to address deteriorating infrastructure that results in frequent disruptions to the transit system. Maintenance of the mall has cost more than $1M annually.
During construction, the free MallRide shuttle will operate as normal on Mall blocks not actively under construction and will detour around the active construction zone to either 15th St. or 17th St. which both feature dedicated bus lanes to accommodate the MallRide without disruption to traffic.
The contractor will be required to ensure ADA-compliant access to all businesses, buildings, and residences during construction. To honor the mall’s iconic look, new granite pavers will be installed in a pattern similar to what’s on the mall now with increased surface friction to improve pedestrian safety; historic replica lighting will be enhanced and increased; and the tree canopy, which has suffered from disease and poor growing conditions, will be replaced and expanded with additional and more diverse trees planted using a state-of-the-art system to allow for healthier, better growth over time.
“Everyone has a 16th Street Mall story, whether its visiting as a child, celebrating your favorite sports team, watching runners carry the Olympic torch, opening your first business, discovering new cultures through art and music, or visiting on your first trip to the Mile High City,” said Tami Door, President and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership.
“We’re excited to open this next chapter on the 16th Street Mall with a contractor, PCL Construction Services, who understands the significance of this iconic downtown asset for the whole community,” she added.
The 16th Street Mall improvement project will provide the following benefits:
- Creating or supporting 1,843 jobs, including skilled trades and apprenticeships that will offer training opportunities for Denver residents currently out of work;
- Generating $156M in labor income (includes wages/salaries of workers along with health insurance, benefits, etc.);
- Generating an anticipated $379.5M in sales (should not be interpreted as sales or revenue forecasts for any specific businesses associated with the scenario); and
- Adding $4B to the Gross Regional Product (GRP). GRP is the regional version of the national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and is the single most useful and comprehensive metric for measuring economic impact.
The $149 million contract is funded through a mix of local, state, and federal funds, including voter approved Elevate Denver bond funds and contributions from partners including the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the Federal Transit Authority.
Featured photo courtesy of Clanton & Associates. All renderings courtesy of Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.