July 23, 2014 Leave a comment
Caitlin Hendee | Denver Business Journal
Businesses lining the 16th Street Mall had their hands full Sunday after the mall’s shuttle service was detoured for Meet in the Street, an event that drew an estimated 2,800 people per block per hour.
“What this event is about is bringing the community together into an urban environment … working with partners, having people experience the urban environment in different ways,” said Jenny Starkey, a spokesperson for the Downtown Denver Partnership, which hosted the event.
Regional Transportation District (RTD) free mall-ride buses that typically run the length of the mall were rerouted to 15th and 17th street for the duration of the event, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Downtown Denver Business Improvement worked with the Partnership to create Meet in the Street, which included drum circles, bike decorating stations, live music, a photo booth, games and more.
According to Starkey, the event started as a way to encourage a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, as well as draw people to the 16th Street Mall to engage with businesses and build community.
Events like this, she said, are part of Denver’s “tactical urbanism,” plan, which ultimately will lead to the city’s continued transformation towards new urbanism, transit-oriented development — the movement to create walkable, mixed-used neighborhoods featuring small, compact residential lots and stores, schools and other amenities that can be easily reached by walking, biking and transit rather than driving.
“These kinds of tactical urbanism projects are really just interventions to create projects that improve the urban environment,” Starkey said.
The next Meet in the Street event is set for August 10.
The re-routing of the mall buses also gave the Partnership a convenient opening to install permanent intersection art, a painting by artist Katy Casper Gevargis, onto the intersection of 16th and Curtis Street.
That installation is part of an initiative the Partnership started last year to reinvigorate the central blocks of the 16th Street Mall, between Welton and Curtis Streets.
“They have been the blocks we’ve struggled with activating as public space,” said Ryan Sotirakis, public realm design specialist at the Partnership. “There’s not a lot of cafés … they’re not like the blocks down by LoDo where’s there’s a lot of energy.”
Sotirakis said the initiative, which will feature art at both Curtis and 16th Streets and soon at Welton and 16th Streets, seeks to address pedestrian safety by “extend[ing] the feeling of the mall across intersections.”
And by putting in art and hosting events like Meet in the Street, Starkey added, it creates a more positive environment for businesses and visitors.
Asked if that was a strategy of the Partnership to address concerns about homelessness and crime — the city recently approved $1.8 million to increase police presence on the Mall— Starkey said activation was the main goal.
“Any kind of activation strategy, whether it’s public art or bringing out our partners … brings positive activity, and that really negates other activity that could happen there,” Starkey said.