Denver to Consider Rapid Activation of Commercial Streets
By Katie Rapone, editor, Mile High CRE
In a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock, the Downtown Denver Partnership has proposed plans to temporarily shut down streets in nine of Denver’s popular neighborhoods, to allow retail and restaurants to utilize sidewalk and street space during the pandemic.
According to the DDP, Denver restaurants reported a 76 percent-year-over-year decline in sales in April 2020 and only 15 percent of restaurants received federal Paycheck Protection Program support.
For many restaurants space is in short supply, which makes social distancing very difficult indoors.
“In pandemic times, the asphalt shadows that adjoin most businesses could come in handy. What we know about the coronavirus suggests that it is mainly transmitted indoors, between people in close proximity, and that its transmission seems to slow in warmer weather. The summer, then, offers us an opportunity to restart social life in a way that reduces the odds of coronavirus transmission twice over, by keeping diners outside and well-spaced” — Slate Magazine, April 2020.
To provide a safe and manageable space for diners, The DDP has requested that the city create an accelerated process that allows business districts to apply for the removal of private vehicle through-traffic access and parking — freeing the space for use by a greater number of Denverites — in key downtown and neighborhood commercial districts.
The neighborhoods would include: Upper Downtown, Larimer Square, RiNo, Berkeley, West Highlands, The “L” (Wazee and 35th streets), Platt Park, Wash Park and Cherry Creek North.
These streets were identified based on a prior demonstration of effective street closures through permitted events.
The benefits of the proposal are multifaceted. In general, the action allows restaurants and retailers to mitigate service capability restrictions created by physical distancing protocols by utilizing space in the street. In addition, for more densely located businesses, closing streets to through traffic will increase safety for people trying to maintain physical distancing. Finally, immediate activation of streets allows the public to benefit from additional placemaking and programming features, such as seating and landscaping.
“It’s an environment that is safer just in general, outdoor is better air flow, and greater capacity for social distancing,” Tami Door, CEO of Downtown Denver Partnership said.
DDP recommends that these measures go into effect for a “pilot’ period from Memorial Day to October 31. Mayor Michael Hancock will now review the proposal.