While marketeers float puffy, potential slogans far above the Mile High City, one new program will take Denver's message straight to the streets.
Make that street -- specifically, the 16th Street Mall. The Business Improvement District that stretches along the mall, both monitoring and funding its maintenance, has approved two innovative measures for next year's budget aimed at helping not just visitors, but the mall regulars cited by some visitors as their least-favorite part of the Denver experience. The first will use $35,000 in BID assessments to hire an outreach worker from the St. Francis shelter, who will work with the homeless who've found a home on the mall. And the second will fund a pilot project to put ambassadors on the mall. "Many cities have initiated such programs," says Anne Warhover, head of the Downtown Denver Partnership, the fifty-year-old booster group that oversees mall activities. "They're there to assist visitors, to make people feel comfortable. Seeing somebody like that makes people feel safe."
The ambassadors -- the budget allows for four, but Warhover hopes to partner with the city and Urban Peak, which works with teen runaways, to leverage a federal grant into ten paid positions -- will wear some kind of uniform (probably not polar-bear suits, even if Klondike and Snow were Denver's most famous mascots this side of John Elway) but have no law-enforcement authority. Instead, they'll be armed with radios and information, so that they can both offer helpful tips to visitors and communicate any problems they encounter.
"They'll be deployed around the California Street area whenever we have conventions in town, and also around Skyline Park when it's completed," Warhover says. "We want to make you feel good about being here."
And when she says "you," she doesn't just mean the tourists, or the businesspeople out for a fast lunch, or the Highlands Ranch book club on its way to the Tattered Cover. She's including the kids who flock to the mall, kids who are as much a part of the urban scene as the name-tag-wearing conventioneers.
Recently, the Partnership was testing new lighting and decorations for the mall, and Warhover decided to ask some of the teens hanging nearby what they thought.
They were thrilled to be asked. Because it's their city, too. Now if the Partnership could just get them to hang in polar-bear suits. -- Calhoun