DENVER — As McDonald’s and TJ Maxx join a long list of closed businesses along 16thStreet Mall, many viewers told us that cleanliness and crime are the main reasons they are not spending more time in downtown Denver.
The City of Denver, in coordination with the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP), is investing millions of dollars to renovate the mall and subsidize local small businesses to operate. In November, it also announced new public health and safety measures to combat crime and connect those experiencing homelessness with mental health and addiction services.
Kourtny Garrett, president of the Downtown Denver Partnership, acknowledged that customers feeling unsafe and uncomfortable visiting Denver’s Central Business District, and 16th Street Mall is a major obstacle to increasing foot traffic to businesses. However, she said that early results of the new measures are showing promise.
“We’ve connected with individuals and really helped to find them paths into either shelters, job placement, substance misuse treatment, mental health treatment, and so forth,” Garrett said. “Like every city in the nation, we are facing an issue with drug epidemic, with an increase in those experiencing homelessness, and housing crisis.”
Forty partner organizations have signed onto the safety initiatives with the city and the DDP, which include a heavier presence of police, mental health experts and substance abuse navigators. Data from the Denver Police Department (DPD) shows that the Central Business District has the most reported crimes of any of the city’s neighborhoods.
This is far from the first time that instituted policies and procedures have aimed to reduce crime and homelessness along 16th Street Mall and throughout downtown. However, Garrett said she is confident that these latest efforts — combined with the many other investments into infrastructure and businesses — will lead to last improvements.
“One, it’s the fact that we have so many partners who are working together — 40 partner organizations, many of which include law enforcement, the judicial system, all working in concert,” Garrett said. “Number two, it’s a long-term commitment. This isn’t a task force that’s going to be here for 30 days. This is a long-term commitment to the public health and public safety of our community.”
While daytime foot traffic levels downtown are still far below pre-pandemic levels — due in large part to the exodus of office workers from Denver’s downtown — restaurant reservations on weekend nights have met and even surpassed 2019 numbers, according to the DDP. While property crime in the area trended largely in the wrong direction in 2022, violent crime in all reported categories decreased from 2021 per DPD data.
“We see that there’s so much activity, and I think those who have not been down in quite some time are really those who need to come see the excitement that’s here today,” Garrett said.