Scenes From a Mall

A timeline of the Pearl Street Mall

  • 1977: The council finally okays a public lavatory. "This is not going to be your standard concrete-block crapper," says the city geologist. In August, the Pearl Street Mall officially opens -- without a lavatory. The Daily Camera's Glennys McPhilimy goes to a downtown restaurant for dinner and, as she emerges, finds "the most amazing thing. People. A mix of young and old. Participants and onlookers. A lone flutist on the corner. Couples strolling in no apparent hurry to get anywhere. It's midnight. This is downtown Boulder?" Later that month, Mayor Frank Buchanan officially cuts the ribbon, to the accompaniment of belly-dancing, a pie-throwing contest, floating orange and yellow balloons, and a demonstration of rope rappelling by the Incredible Lamont. In October the mall sees its first Halloween parade.

  • 1978: The restroom is built at a cost of $67,328. Mockers dub it the Taj Mahal. The official name selected is the County Seat. Denver Congresswoman Pat Schroeder asks the General Accounting Office to investigate the cost. These headlines appear five days apart: "County Seat's First Flush Due." "Latrine Springs Leak." Phil Swan, a local apartment manager, forms Citizens Against Poor Planning of Elimination Resources -- CRAPPER -- and begins organizing protests. The GAO reports that while the lavatory's costs are high, they're reasonable, since the County Seat is supposed to be vandal-proof, handicapped accessible, easy to maintain and designed to blend with the rest of the mall.

    By December, ice and vandals have closed the restroom. Even so, the mall is deemed a great success. Between 4,000 and 6,000 people walk on it daily, and businesses report a 40 percent increase in sales taxes.

  • 1979: Mork and Mindy take up residence near the mall.

  • 1980: Construction begins on a pedestrian mall in Denver. Meanwhile, HUD honors Boulder for its Downtown Revitalization Project. Over the next few years, however, the economy is dismal, many stores on the mall go vacant, and merchants complain about transients, bicyclists, dogs, skateboards and market researchers.

  • 1982: Policing the Halloween celebration runs up a $7,500 tab for the city.

  • 1983: Crossroads is refurbished, and the situation downtown becomes bleaker. Frank Shorter Fitness Wear is forced to close. John Matlack's "Minor Regional Artist" sign is smashed during the Halloween mall crawl.

  • 1986: A Banana Republic store appears on the mall, to the delight of citizens and fellow merchants. Ten more national shops follow; thirteen local stores close. Police arrest 32 revelers during the annual Halloween festivities.

  • 1987: Peggy Alter, a University of Colorado pastry chef, bakes a huge cake in the shape of the mall for the project's tenth birthday, using 300 pounds of sugar, 133 pounds of butter and 664 eggs.

  • 1989: After a two-year-long controversy, Wendy's opens on the mall. Camera food editor John Lehndorff is an outspoken opponent. "When I want a fast-food cheeseburger, I go to Wendy's," he says. "I think they make a fine cheeseburger. But it's outrageous and completely wrong to have Wendy's in downtown Boulder. Besides the fact that there's no parking and no drive-up, it's not the kind of experience, culinarily or otherwise, that people would want to have in a place like this." Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are sighted on the mall.

  • 1990: Boulder officials crack down on Halloween, closing parking lots and persuading bars and restaurants to close early. As a result, there are only about 15,000 costumed revelers compared to 35,000 the year before.

  • 1993: Wendy's closes for lack of business. B.G. Raggs, a used-clothing store, is evicted to make space for a chain store. Owner Vivian Sutherland hangs this sign in her window: "Big Money; Selfishness; Complete disregard for the common man has screwed us out of business. Are you next?"

  • 1994: Time Warp Comics, one of the best comic stores in the country (James Earl Jones once appeared here to sign Darth Vader posters), moves away from downtown. The store's rent had increased from $2,300 a month to almost $5,000.

  • 1995: Pearl's Restaurant, on the mall seventeen years, also falls victim to rising rents -- from less than $5,000 a month to $12,500. A stone and brass sculpture of a table with a chessboard on it and two chairs is created by Carolyn Braaksma in memory of Ron Porter, a Boulder attorney who died of cancer at the age of 51. In the coming years, it will be vandalized and restored twice.

  • 1997: The public restroom is closed because of vandalism. The courthouse lawn is renovated, and merchants complain that the change hurts business. The council shoots down a proposal to ban sitting or lying on sidewalks.

  • 1998: A man is ticketed for carrying his dog in a pouch on the mall; a woman is ticketed for holding a Dalmation puppy in her arms while standing in line for a cup of coffee.

  • 1999: The County Seat is open for business. City council is considering renovating the 22-year-old Pearl Street Mall.
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