As downtown continues to grow as a destination for tourists and residents alike, so will nightlife on the mall, says Qualley, who lives at California and 16th streets. "We're going to be at the epicenter," he says. "We believed in the city of Denver enough to mortgage ourselves fully...and we're still here, and that bet is still paying off." Sam Levin

*******

Today Denver is always on the lookout for national companies that want to move here. But in the late '70s, downtown became home to an international headquarters when Divine Light Mission leader Guru Maharaj Ji — who'd moved to this country in 1971 at the age of fourteen, then caused a stir when he married his secretary two years later — decided to set up an office here after visiting the city in 1976. "You see, these changes will slowly, slowly start occurring," he said at that meeting. "I don't know to what extent they are going to occur. I can't tell you. I can't predict that. As you know, people really don't have the right consciousness about Divine Light Mission. They think it's a cult or a religion. But what do we really teach you? Still, those things confuse people, because there are some similarities to be found. Anything that's becoming a burden in the path of knowledge, I'm just going to eliminate that."

And he got right down to business, setting up an office in the Kittredge Building, at 16th and Welton streets, where his followers — known as premies — ran a typesetting business that helped produce the early issues of Westword. They might not have been cult members, but they certainly worked cheaply and without complaint, always dressed in the colors of the Indian sunrise.

By the time the 16th Street Mall opened in 1982, the Guru and his followers had moved on. The immaculately renovated Kittredge Building is now the headquarters for Downtown Denver, the booster group that not only envisioned the mall, but oversees the Business Improvement District that spends $2.4 million annually on cleaning, snow removal, holiday decor and other mall services. The path to knowledge may have changed direction, but it's always moving. The original mall was just thirteen blocks long; in 1994 it was extended to the railroad tracks beyond Wynkoop Street, and later it was on the move again, four blocks farther into the Central Platte Valley.

"In my time here in Denver — the last seven years — there have been some very significant developments," says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, who just presided over the inaugural State of Downtown Denver confab last week. "We have a really strong vision for the mall, and we are steadily working our way through that — as a community, not just as the partnership." And when the mall isn't growing in length, it's growing in depth.

This year, for example, the mall introduced an "enhanced vending program" that not only helped activate the space, but also encouraged new entrepreneurs to enter the market. At the same time, major retailers have joined the lineup, including H&M, "an absolute game-changer," Door says. Today there are over 200 retail establishments on the mall (or within a half-block), ranging from H&M and sunglass vendors to the Cheesecake Factory and hot dog vendors; they collected nearly $10.8 million in sales taxes last year, nearly 32 percent of Denver's total sales-tax revenue. And there's more to come. The addition of 1600 Glenarm and the transformation of Block 162 into the Sage Building energized one half of the mall; the developments will soon stretch to 1600 Market and beyond to Union Station.

"We will always and forever have new and improved ways to manage and improve the mall," Door says, "but it's important to step back and look over how much we've done as a community over the last thirty years, and even the last ten years." And you'll have a chance to do just that on October 9, when the Denver Partnership and RTD host a lunchtime celebration at Skyline Park marking the thirtieth anniversary of the mall.

"When we did the twenty-year plan," Door says, referring to the Partnership's work with the city back in 2006, "we emphasized the importance of a mosaic of districts. The 16th Street Mall flows through so many of those districts, each with their own character.... That's what we love about the mall, that's why it's such a true, fabulous urban space, recognized nationally as the best in the country. If you just stand out there and take it all in, it's really marvelous."

For downtown residents, downtown workers, suburban visitors and tourists alike, it's the path to knowledge...of Denver. Patricia Calhoun

*******

It's not quite cold yet, but it will be. And when that happens, Lucy, who asked that her last name not be used here, will spend her first winter in "many many" away from the 16th Street Mall. She might even leave Denver altogether, but she hasn't decided yet. Lingering near the parking lot of the Denver Pavilions, Lucy digs through her backpack for a cigarette. She pulls out a Pall Mall, lights it and exhales.

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47 comments
OverIt
OverIt

30 years ago is was great; even 20 years ago is was great.  Now...does anyone look around when they come down here?  Curtis and up is terrible, and that's during the workday.  Forget about coming down on a Sunday afternoon.  If you have a family or anything valuable it's often just scary to be hanging out on the mall.  The LoDo side of the mall...a bit better but still not great.

 

And the whole length is just dated and makes me feeling like it's 1992.  The expense of regular maintenance or a makeover are too high (and we pay for it as taxpayers, not the vendors and property owners proximate to the mall).

 

Time to turn it back into a regular street.  It has run its course.

Stephen At Half Aspen
Stephen At Half Aspen

I remember laying there with an officer's knee on my neck and the other tightening down the cuffs like he was torquing a lug nut. Ah, the good old days.

Tenzin Tsering
Tenzin Tsering

Hardcore parkouring every small obstacle in my path.

twisst260
twisst260

@new_clear_DAZE A very bright ISS will cross your sky tonight. It comes up in the South at 7:57 pm. Details: http://t.co/Jjgkl4Dq

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

if you'd like to see your comment published in the print edition as a letter to the editor (with your real name), e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

WestGuest
WestGuest

16th Street was cool, before the mall.  Thanx for the nostalgia, Alan!

as far as panhandlers, they're outnumbered 10 to 1 by the people

soliciting for their "causes".  but if all you need is a souvenir t-shirt,

this is your spot.

Ozzie Perch
Ozzie Perch

I remember driving down it just one way...now my buses are cruising it!cool!

Caleb Mather
Caleb Mather

Junkies n' panhandlers are my personal fave

Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy

Is the 180 cameras...police on: horse...segway...motorcycles....bicycles....foot....undercover too...so yeah...it is safe...that is my favorite part. If someone shoots you..they will know who did it.

Joe Matrone
Joe Matrone

what joktan said... 16th st is one of my least parts of Denver

Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan

Favorite thing about the 16th St. Mall is avoiding it.

Joktan Rogel
Joktan Rogel

I can't decide between overeager petitioners and smoke being blown in my face. It's a really tough call.

Lisa Wolf DeWitt
Lisa Wolf DeWitt

al fresco dining...before dark and the unsavory folks start roaming the streets

Wehavesir
Wehavesir

Seriously, it's not even that bad! Have you ever been to south side Jamaica Queens or Compton? The 16th street mall is not ghetto whatsoever, even late at night. Be more scared of the drunk lodo jock-types bar hopping than the homeless. Geesh 

Keloid
Keloid

The 16th Street Mall: A transient toilet and gangbanger outreach program that never met a wig shop it didn't like. World class, Denver! WORLD-FUCKING-CLASS!

basecamper
basecamper

@DowntownDenver @DenverWestword The mall is a scary mess filled with second rate shops, panhandlers and strung out teen runaways. Buzz?

Keloid
Keloid

Well, thanks to Hancocks camping ban, all your shit seems to be rolling uphill to us. I'll be sure to point em back to where they belong, so your gem of the west doesn't lose it's local flavor.

Spliffy
Spliffy

You wrote LMAO? Seriously? What the fuck, are you a fourteen year old girl texting about her new tween boyfriend or Bieber CD? SERIOUSLY? You SERIOUSLY wrote LMAO? Thanks for chiming in for the sanctimonious douche canoe contingent.

sux2Bstupid
sux2Bstupid

 @Sux2BU

 

 Definition for pleb from the Oxford English Dictionary: plebeian: one of the common people.

 

plebe/plēb/Noun:A newly entered cadet or freshman, esp. at a military academy.

 

Go get yourself a real dictionary.

 

 

sux2Bstupid
sux2Bstupid

 @Sux2BU

 Yes, and because Keloid spelled pusillanimous correctly, that makes him some kind of genius?

 

Here's the definition from the Oxford English Dictionary: pu·sil·lan·i·mous/ˌpyo͞osəˈlanəməs/Adjective:Showing a lack of courage or determination; timid.

 

Maybe you'd better explain how BackOffImStarving's comments were lacking in courage?

 

I think you have no clue what you're talking about. The Urban Dictionary? You attached a link to the Urban Dictionary?!? That's hilarious.

sux2Bstupid
sux2Bstupid

 @Sux2BU

 You attached a link to the Urban Dictionary? Seriously? LMAO.

Factually
Factually

 @Keloid

 Also, I don't think you know the definition of pusillanimous (I think you're guessing), because you didn't really use it correctly.

Factually
Factually

 @Keloid

 ActuallyBackOffImStarving is correct. It is "pleb" -- short for

plebeian, which means someone regarded as ill-educated. A "plebe" is a first year military student.

Keloid
Keloid

Spare me your self righteous indignation. How many homeless you got squatting in your apartment? 50? 100? You renting Porta Potties for them to use, or just letting them beshit your doorway? That's what I thought, you're nothing but another good German, beating your chest about community and corporate greed while you blog on your iPad and sip lattes and smoke kindy in your skinny jeans and hoodie. Go hop on your fixie and pedal your baby nuts around the block a few more times before you spout your ridiculous fucking nonsense to me, junior. Oh, and it's spelled 

P-L-E-B-E, you pusillanimous asshat.

Sux2BU
Sux2BU

Don't you have an Occutard Camp to go stink up?

BackOffImStarving
BackOffImStarving topcommenter

 @Keloid Heil Hitler.  Right, Keloid?  We can't have the unclean coming into contact with the chosen ones.  I'm surprised you stooped to talking to plebs like us.  Was that your contribution to society for the year of 2012?  I guess that means you don't have to give your single can of beans to the food drive this holiday season.  Fucking piece of shit douchebag.

 
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