Visitors applaud mobile restroom in Capitol Hill

Posted at 10:57 PM, Mar 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 01:47:21-05

Pedestrians walking past certain alleys along Colfax Avenue, the 16th Street Mall and even along the Cherry Creek Bike Path will occasionally get a whiff of an unpleasant odor.

"I've definitely noticed and caught vagrants back in our alley having to relieve themselves because they don't have access to proper facilities," said Aubin Kemp, owner of 710 Pipes near Colfax and Emerson.

After getting numerous complaints from business owners and nearby residents, the city of Denver decided to lease a mobile restroom as part of a pilot project.

"They saw there was a challenge with people using inappropriate places or not having any options and they asked the city not just to enforce our current laws, but come up with a humane alternative," said City Councilwoman Robin Kniech.

The mobile restroom isn't a porta-potty, it's a sleek trailer with three separate rooms.

Kniech told Denver7 the mobile restroom will be parked just north of Colfax on Clarkson Street for the next three to six months.  She said that location was chosen because of the sheer numbers of people who use the corridor.

"We have the highest bus ridership in the region on the 15 (Colfax) line," she said. "We have significant bike commuters on nearby 16th Avenue and we also have people who are very low income and may not have any other options."

Kniech said the mobile restroom will be open from noon to midnight and will have an attendant to make sure addicts and others aren't using the facility for inappropriate activity.

"If you know there's someone there watching what you're doing," the councilwoman said, "if you're in that restroom too long, you're going to get a polite knock on the door and it's time to move on."

"This is a cleanliness effort," said Denver Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn.  "It'll keep our streets and alleys cleaner."

Kniech said the mobile unit will be moved out of the neighborhood every night so it can be cleaned.

Aubin said it's not just homeless people who will be using it. Visitors who come to Denver because of Colorado's marijuana laws will also be able to use the facility.

"Everyday, they ask 'where are the public restrooms?'" he said.

"We're always looking for one," said Hailey Perricone, who is visiting Denver from Austin, Texas. "That's been one of the biggest problems here so far."

The city will spend $16,000 a month to lease and operate the mobile restroom.

When asked if he thinks the mobile restroom will be worth that cost, Aubin replied, "If it can bring that level of cleanliness and bring customers to the area and make the area better, I think so."

If the pilot project works out, Kniech said the city may lease a second mobile unit.  She said they'll get input from people who use the first one to determine where the second one will be stationed.

In addition to the mobile unit, the city is re-activating existing public restrooms. Kniech said Denver reopened the restroom at Skyline Park last fall and will "winterize" the restrooms at Commons Park so they can be open year round. She said there is also a facility at the McNichols Building in Civic Center Park that will be reopened.

"According to U.S. News and World Report, Denver is the number one city in the country," Kniech said. "Providing accessible, comfortable facilities can improve our quality of life and help us keep our streets and alleys clean."


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