Public feedback inspires improved paver design for the 16th Street Mall transitway and pedestrian walkways

In April 2022, RTD began detouring its Free MallRide service around construction associated with Denver's large-scale renovation of the 16th Street Mall.

photo of the mallride on 16th street in denver

Denver’s first major upgrade in nearly 40 years to the mall – one of the most successful pedestrian/transit malls in the United States – will feature a new granite paver system that honors the mall’s iconic original design by I.M. Pei and Olin. The work, managed by Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), will remove curbs and move transit lanes to the center of each block; add more trees; and create wider pedestrian walkways and new amenity zones for leisure, commerce, entertainment and tourism.

A primary driver for the project is the need to address the mall’s deteriorating infrastructure, specifically the granite paver system, which resulted in disruptions to the transit system and cost more than a million dollars annually to maintain.

In August 2022, as the initial phase of construction progressed, DOTI began offering “paver preview” opportunities for business groups along the 16th Street Mall, as well as local disabled community groups, focus groups and the public, to preview and comment on the proposed new granite paver system and curbless configuration.

The project is designed without curbs along the transitway to facilitate movement of people across the mall, and to enable a variety of mall uses, including events and festivals. Approximately 40 feet of curb will be provided at each Free MallRide shuttle stop location. 

The sample paver preview installation – constructed on the mall at the Outer Space, located at the corner of 16th and Welton streets – allows visitors to experience the proposed new granite transitway and walkways that were designed to increase safety and improve mobility along the mall, and to weigh in on the new configuration that places the transitway in the center, with amenity zones, trees and pedestrian walkways adjacent to the businesses.

16th Street Mall Paver Preview Aug 2022

The construction team received numerous comments regarding the edge delineation between the proposed transit and pedestrian/amenity zones. Some people with visual impairment who attended the August paver preview expressed concern that the edge delineation moving from the amenity zone to the transitway was not distinct enough for cane users to notice.

With this important feedback, the project team conducted a thorough technical evaluation of paver options, balancing trip hazards with providing an identifiable zone distinct enough for people with visual impairment to distinguish, then revised the proposed paver design.

The team installed an updated section of the paver preview at the Outer Space location in December with a more detectable edge delineation that features a smaller, cobbled paver to better define the boundary between the transitway and pedestrian zones. Project stakeholders and the public were invited to stop by to view the newly designed pavers alongside the original design to easily compare the finishes.

An in-person event was held at the Outer Space location on Jan. 26, where local business owners, the public, focus groups and local community groups for individuals with disabilities could meet project team members and discuss the new paver designs.

Comments received from the in-person event were largely positive, with praise given to the project team for listening to feedback and making meaningful changes to the paver designs that reflect attention to safety and make the mall a welcoming place for all visitors.

Renovation of the 16th Street Mall is expected to wrap up at the end of 2024. RTD’s Free MallRide shuttle will continue to detour around the work onto 15th and 17th streets to ensure the agency can maintain service to the area. For the latest updates and notifications about the Free MallRide shuttle, sign up for Service Alerts.