DENVER — The results of an online survey and a series of community meetings have found strong support for the continued closure of the 2900 block of Larimer Street in Denver's River North (RiNo) neighborhood to cars, according to a summary shared by the RiNo Art District.
The district spent November gathering opinions from customers, residents and businesses on the closure to car traffic and the possibility of future improvements and additions.
The block was initially closed to traffic in 2020, allowing adjacent businesses to extend their operations into the street. Ratio Beerworks, one of several breweries on the block, set up tented outdoor seating on the street that is still in use today.
Eric Matelski, general manager of taproom operations at Ratio Beerworks, said the closure of the street has become key to their success.
“Colorado is such an outdoor market,” Matelski said. “Anytime that you can have this kind of element, it allows more activity. So I think it’s better for a business.”
RiNo Art District seeking feedback on whether to keep Larimer block car-free
Ratio Beerworks is hardly alone. Several other businesses on the block have joined in to create a nonprofit, pooling money for the further beautification of the block should it remain closed.
Heaven Creamery, which opened a location on the block in late 2021, said it has presented a challenge to business during colder months. That’s why the team there is pushing for the street to reopen to traffic for at least part of the year.
“I think during the summer, it’s a good idea to keep it closed so you have more of an environment here [that] people can feel safe just coming here and drinking and going to restaurants — whatever they want to do without having to worry about cars driving by since it’s so busy during the summer,” said Gabriel Aude, regional manager for Heaven Creamery. “But, you know, starting in like October, it starts to look dead. It just does not even look presentable to be closed. It does not make sense, and it inflicts every business here, especially if you serve food or desserts.”
A permanent decision on the future of the block is still a ways out. Now that community feedback has been collected, the city is requiring a mobility study to see what the impacts are to traffic flow throughout the neighborhood. After that study is conducted, and should the closure to cars continue, RiNo Art District will continue crafting design concepts for what a permanent car-free block could be.
“Those improvements might mean more benches, shade structures, planters, maybe trees, opportunities for art, games, things like that,” said Sara Cawrse, director of urban strategy and design for RiNo Art District. “So there’s plenty of options for what can occur in the street.”
The mobility study is expected to conclude this winter, Cawrse said, at which point the City of Denver could either reopen 2900 Larimer to cars or close it for the rest of 2024 as the discussion continues. A permanent plan is expected to be in place within the next five years.