The shuttles will stay on Denver’s 16th Street Mall (but other changes could come)

RTD commissioned new MallRide buses. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
RTD commissioned new MallRide buses. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
A MallRide bus. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

By the end of this year, we could have a “preferred option” for how the 16th Street Mall and the free MallRide could change.

Denver and RTD have been getting serious about changing the corridor since early this year, and now they’re deciding a guiding vision for the Mall in the next three days with other stakeholders like the Downtown Denver Partnership.

This vision is expected to inform that preferred option, and it should square with findings from earlier studies on the mall. So, in other words, don’t expect radical changes.

“We don’t, as a general rule, have an intention of moving shuttles off the 16th Street Mall,” said Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership.

“The capacity to absorb [those riders] onto other streets just doesn’t exist,” added RTD General Manager Dave Genova.

Instead, you can expect recommendations as simple as “no change” or as significant as new shuttle lane alignments or sidewalk enhancements.

“Through all these years of studying, researching, testing, we don’t expect any surprises, based on what we’ve already learned along the way about things that may work and things that may not work,” Door said.

So this guiding vision is more about fulfilling the federally mandated process that must happen before changes can come to the mall.

And the project is kicking into high gear because there’s roughly $68 million in Denver Urban Renewal Authority money that needs to be spent by 2022. Tax increment financing from DURA requires that a design project be identified by 2020 and completed by 2022. Plus, 2017 General Obligation Bond money is also potentially still in the mix for any 16th Street redesigning.

“We have the blessing of a deadline,” said Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development.

If that sounds too fast and you need an opportunity to weigh in, there will be opportunities for public comment. Those are expected later this summer.