NewsCube, "semi-permanent" addition to 16th Street Mall, closes just weeks after opening

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The Downtown Denver Partnership has been working to upgrade the quality and quantity of the sometimes sketchy vendors and carts on the 16th Street Mall, but its flashiest new pick-up to date just packed up and left. The NewsCube, which opened at the end of August to glowing praise from the DDP, was supposed to be a newsstand for the 21st century.

In addition to a massive lineup of magazines and newspapers, the NewsCube was also outfitted with flat-panel TVs tuned to news and sports stations. A ten-foot-by-ten-foot cube, the business was the first of several semi-permanent vending structures planned for the mall.

But owner Molly Graham shut it down within a few weeks, after an angry dispute with the DDP. Neither Graham nor the DDP would comment, but the NewsCube, at 16th and California streets, is definitely closed for good.

"We don't want to say too much," DDP spokeswoman Sarah Neumann says, "but we are as disappointed as they are, because we were really excited about it."

Earlier this year, the DDP began looking for someone to run a new, "enhanced vending program" to coordinate with the planned renovation of the mall. The Marketplace Manager will be responsible for more than doubling the number of vendors -- from 32 to 85 -- and creating a vision for who those vendors might be, and although the DDP hasn't hired that person yet, it has already started signing more vendors, typically to one-year leases.

"We want to up the diversity factor from block to block," Neumann explains. "We want to find new concepts that maybe haven't been on the 16th Street Mall before." Aside from the NewsCube, the DDP has already added EvoBean, an environmentally friendly coffee shop, and Crepe Escape, and is close to adding a cart selling soba-noodle dishes; a number of other businesses are lined up as well, she says.

Eventually, the DDP hopes the enhanced vending program will turn into a revolving business incubator for retailers who want real storefronts on the mall. "They could use it to get their businesses going for a fraction of what it would cost to get going in an in-line space," says DDP economic development director Jim Kirchheimer.

But first the DDP will have to get past the bad news that the NewsCube is now a giant, block-shaped vacancy sitting where its vision should be.

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