16th Street Mall Extension
1. The Commons Urban Village, with mall centerpiece
2. The Commons Urban Village, with mall centerpiece and park
3. Mall extension schematic plan
4. Plaza and bridge model
5. Plazas and bridge – concept sketch
6. Park side and redevelopment interface – concept sketch
7. Plaza, bridge, light rail relationship
8. Crescent component separating plaza from light rail
9. Park-side plaza with community activity
10. Site and building material relationship
11. Lighting focused on features and edges
12. Streetscape with custom-designed seating and lighting
PROJECT FACT SHEET
16th Street Mall Extension
Purpose of the Project
The 14-block-long 16th Street mall serves as the major transportation spine for downtown
Denver as well as one of the most-visited destinations of the region. Designed in the early
1980s by I.M. Pei, the mall is closed to cars and is served by free, continuously operating
shuttle buses, encouraging workers, residents and visitors to move efficiently throughout
the central business district. Embracing a mix of retail, pedestrian plazas, offices, hotels
and regional bus and light-rail connections, the mall has been a catalyst for significant
The designers used the energy created by the mall as an organizing principle for the new
Riverfront/Commons neighborhood in the former Burlington Northern rail yard. This 60-
acre parcel sits between Denver Union Terminal and the Platte River. Several single-use
plans for the area failed to garner support in the 1980s. Extending the mall into the area
proved instrumental in connecting this large infill project to the vibrant city core and
galvanizing assets on both sides of the equation.
The 16th Street mall extension extrapolates its many resources into new territory. Transit
options and pedestrian spaces now connect Civic Center with the Platte River and even to
neighborhoods west of the river. These include light rail at a planned inter-modal
transportation facility adjoining the existing Denver Union Terminal. The extension
continues west over a monumental pedestrian bridge that spans the railroad tracks,
offering visitors panoramic views of the city, and bringing them to an expansive plaza
ringed with ground-floor retail, including a café and a gourmet grocery. The extension
culminates at Denver’s first large-scale urban park, which links into the city’s system of
pedestrian trails along the Platte River.
Role of the Landscape Architect
The design and construction of the 16th Street Mall Extension was a highly visible
process in the Denver community. The landscape architect led the development of the
design standards and guidelines and prepared a schematic package for public review, as
well as navigating a challenging political process.
1. The 16th Street mall extension represents simplicity of form and function. Qualities
that endeared the existing mall to its users are brought to new life in the extension.
Carefully placed lighting establishes a sense of place. A continuous canopy of trees
provides shade and comfort year-round. High quality materials are utilized
2. The extension brings the city to the river. The Commons neighborhood, located in the
Central Platte Valley, is a community created out of the former rail yard, now
connected to downtown Denver by a short walk or ride along the 16th Street mall
extension. A pedestrian bridge connects a pair of plazas within the Commons to the
existing 16th Street Mall.
3. The life cycle of the project was of utmost importance to the landscape architect.
Provisions for extensive and common freeze-thaw and drainage conditions, vandal-resistant
materials, replacement value, and the aesthetics of wear and constant use
were considerations in the design and construction of the project and represent a
strategic use of budgetary constraints.
The mall extension solves problems of transportation, traffic congestion, noise and
pollution while promoting business growth, pedestrian use, convenience and fun. With
bus terminals on each end, the mall is an essential link between Denver’s public transit
systems and serves as a people-oriented public space, as well as the most significant
organizing principle for an entirely new urban district.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.