DENVER — Denver's 16th Street Mall is losing two big chains as 2023 begins, with McDonald’s permanently closing on New Year’s Eve and TJ Maxx set to close Jan. 14. This comes as city leaders and the Downtown Denver Partnership continue several initiatives aimed at returning business activity to pre-pandemic levels.
“While we are always assessing and reviewing our real estate strategies, the decision to close any store is one we make with thoughtful consideration,” a spokesperson for TJ Maxx told Denver7 in a statement. “We are grateful for the loyalty of our Denver customers and invite them to visit our nearby stores to continue to find great value.”
Foot traffic to Denver’s Central Business District dropped off dramatically at the beginning of the pandemic, and still has not fully returned in large part due to the number of office workers who have continued to work from home. A report released in the summer of 2022 found that only half the downtown workforce had returned and office vacancy sate at 21%, the fourth highest in the nation.
“I was a little sad. I’m a little surprised. I mean, I like going there… but then I see other places closing on 16th Street Mall, and it’s like ‘well, there goes another one,’” said a woman named Rebecca, who spoke with Denver7 about her frequent shopping trips to the TJ Maxx on 16th Street. “I remember when I arrived in 2006, [16th Street Mall] was a pretty lively place. They had street entertainment and artists, and you know, there was stuff going on. There was music. And I feel like it really hasn’t bounced back since April 2020.”
It’s not only a decline in customers that has made business tougher in the Central Business District. Crime has been another major factor.
Data from the Denver Police Department show that the area has the highest number of reported crimes of any of Denver’s neighborhoods by far. Property crime in 2022 was almost 12% higher than the previous three-year average, with theft and auto theft topping the list. Drug and alcohol related crimes were almost 93% higher.
However, there are positive signs as well.
Violent crime in every category decreased in the area from 2021 to 2022. The city of Denver is continuing its $150 million renovation of the 16th Street Mall, which will rework the layout of the street and the sidewalks to improve traffic flow. Meanwhile, the Downtown Denver Partnership has launched its “Pop Up Denver” program to financially assist small businesses looking to relocate to the mall, as well as announcing new efforts in November to increase safety and crime response in the area.
“I mean, you kind of see it being taken down a few notches, but I mean, everything ebbs and flows,” Rebecca said. “I heard of the 1980s that it wasn’t that awesome either. And so, I feel like it's not having its glory days right now, but I don’t think it’s like game over.”