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Cinderella City Vintage Photos Helping to Turn Famed Mall Into "Video Game"

We hope this marriage lasted longer than Cinderella City did. Click to see more images from this post on the Cinderella City Project's Instagram page.
Englewood Public Library via The Cinderella City Project
We hope this marriage lasted longer than Cinderella City did. Click to see more images from this post on the Cinderella City Project's Instagram page.
A half-century ago this March, Cinderella City, arguably Colorado's most famous and well-remembered mall, opened in Englewood, and to mark the occasion, Denver designer Josh Goldstein is currently working on what he calls a "fully-detailed digital recreation of Cinderella City Mall for a Virtual Reality experience" he hopes to complete by the end of the attraction's fiftieth-anniversary year.

Our preview of the project included a request from Goldstein for folks to send him vintage photos of Cinderella City prior to its late-1990s demolition so that he can make his efforts even better, and the response was heartening. Goldstein, corresponding via email, notes that in addition to photo submissions courtesy of individuals, he received "messages from the City of Englewood and the Englewood Library granting me additional access to their archives."

A selection of the shots, posted on Goldstein's must-follow Cinderella City Project Instagram page and shared here, will send those who recall the magnificent edifice into a nostalgic swoon and make those who weren't around to experience its version of retail glory green with envy.

In addition, Goldstein is sharing a teaser of early animation to give us a better idea of how things are shaping up.


The video "shows a brief walk-through of the Center Court/Blue Mall from the 1980s-era Cinderella City, which is the version of the mall I'm rebuilding first," he notes via email. "Eventually I will build out the 1960s era to the same level of detail. This walk-through starts from the southeast entrance to the Blue Mall, towards Montgomery Ward (formerly Denver Dry Goods) and around to the southwest entrance and down the hallway that would eventually lead to the Rose Mall. I've included a few storefronts and signage from stores that existed in this area in the 1980s and 1990s. This represents my latest efforts at adding lighting, signage and other details to the model, then converting it to an interactive video-game environment where the lights and signage glow for immersive effect and the player can walk around the space. I'm using some simple 2-D cutout people for scale, but these will eventually be replaced with 3-D animated characters."

Here's a look at his latest eye-popping efforts:


"I still have much to learn about how to optimize the lighting and get the most realistic results out of the video-game engine," Goldstein acknowledges. "The model currently has a few hundred lights that contribute to the scene, but this number will grow significantly (and so will the time it takes to render) as I tackle the rest of the mall. Overall, I'm fairly happy with how it's turned out so far. There are a few strange artifacts in the video that the casual viewer might not notice, but I'll be working to make things look even better in the future. It feels a bit like a digital dead mall, which is actually somewhat accurate for this portion of its life. Animated characters might help it feel more alive, but I'm not sure I'll ever model the interior of the stores, so it may never feel totally real. I have bigger goals with this model that I'd like to explore before ever getting to that level of detail."

Goldstein adds: "Going forward, I'll be exploring various interactions inside the space to allow users to record and place memories they'd like to document inside the mall, and also allow them to easily switch between and compare the distinct eras of Cinderella City during its 28-year life, including my future design exploration of what could have been done with the building if it hadn't been demolished. These are the bigger intentions I speak of and part of why I started the Instagram account. I'm fascinated by how many lives a huge social magnet like Cinderella City touched and want to help record memories and experiences from anyone who wants to share them. Despite it being essentially a giant consumerist cathedral, it touched many lives through its focus on community engagement, amenities and events."

Continue to see images courtesy of the Englewood Public Library that echo with the ambience Goldstein is trying to re-create, followed by more of the designer's observations. Anyone with additional photos or memories of Cinderella City is encouraged to contact him at  [email protected].

click to enlarge A man struts his stuff outside Cinderella City's May D&F outlet. - ENGLEWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY VIA THE CINDERELLA CITY PROJECT
A man struts his stuff outside Cinderella City's May D&F outlet.
Englewood Public Library via The Cinderella City Project
click to enlarge A mid-70s look at Cinderella City's Rose Mall. - ENGLEWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY VIA THE CINDERELLA CITY PROJECT
A mid-70s look at Cinderella City's Rose Mall.
Englewood Public Library via The Cinderella City Project
click to enlarge This photo captures Cinderella City's exterior and plenty of classic Detroit iron. - ENGLEWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY VIA THE CINDERELLA CITY PROJECT
This photo captures Cinderella City's exterior and plenty of classic Detroit iron.
Englewood Public Library via The Cinderella City Project
click to enlarge This boxing competition is only one example of the community events once staged at Cinderella City. Click to see more images from this post on The Cinderella City Project's Instagram page. - ENGLEWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY VIA THE CINDERELLA CITY PROJECT
This boxing competition is only one example of the community events once staged at Cinderella City. Click to see more images from this post on The Cinderella City Project's Instagram page.
Englewood Public Library via The Cinderella City Project