Apr 12, 2022 - News

Downtown Denver's pandemic rebound remains a mirage

Views along the 16th Street Mall in Denver. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

From vacant office buildings to crime and near-constant construction, downtown Denver's pandemic rebound remains a mirage.

Driving the news: Mayor Michael Hancock last week trumpeted "downtown is back" and touted a number of security measures that he claimed are helping ensure "a safe and welcoming experience in the heart of the city."

Reality check: The picture Hancock painted doesn't mirror the facts on the ground.

  • Less than 48 hours after his declaration, another shooting occurred on the 2000 block of Market Street, one of the most trafficked areas of Denver's urban core.
  • Meanwhile, only 40% of downtown's workforce is back on a daily basis, per Downtown Denver Partnership CEO Kourtny Garrett. And some downtown buildings, including a two-tower office complex formerly known as the World Trade Center Denver, are facing foreclosure due to dwindling occupancy rates.

What else: This Thursday, construction kicks off on Denver's 16th Street Mall for its first major renovation since 1982.

  • Although storefronts and offices will be accessible throughout the duration of the project, the construction could create a mess that may keep people away.

What's next: The mayor said police officers will ramp up their presence downtown throughout the spring and summer to help control crime.

  • To further boost security in the city, the DDP is forming a new "Downtown Action Team," of about a dozen security personnel to keep "eyes and ears" on the street and increase confidence in downtown's safety, Garrett announced at a news briefing last Thursday.
  • The city is also launching a pilot program to offer rent-free commercial space to five companies — Guerilla Garden, Museum for Black Girls, Tea With Tae, Travel Posters and IEM Designs — and $20,000 in services on the 16th Street Mall. The goal is to "reimagine downtown one storefront at a time," the program's website reads.

The bottom line: The challenges downtown Denver faces will continue to complicate city boosters' narratives about the revival of a core piece of Colorado's economic development.

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