Denver's Pedestrian 'Icon' Celebrates Its 30th Birthday

Jack Healy explores Denver's conflicted relationship with its 16th Street Mall, the pedestrian-oriented street that runs for a mile through the city's downtown. Bustling by day, but deserted and dicey at night, it has become an icon of the city.
October 10, 2012, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In a city that lacks a singular iconic image or place, the city's "melting pot" has become one of its most recognizable symbols, for better or for worse, only thirty years after opening.  

"Unlike attempts by other cities to revive their downtowns by closing major streets to traffic, Denver scored a major success and created a new public square with its 16th Street Mall," says Healy. "It draws map-carrying tourists, badge-wearing conventioneers and white-collar workers, all weaving through a sprawling circus of buskers and petitioners, transients, sunglass sellers and street artists. Each year, about 16 million people ride the free shuttle  buses that carry people along it."

"'This is our iconic image,' the mayor, Michael B. Hancock, said on Tuesday morning as he slipped on an 'I ♥ 16th Street Mall' T-shirt. 'It's the heart and soul of our downtown. This really is our identity.'"


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Published on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 in The New York Times
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