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Garden Block Blooms on 16th Street Mall

The Denver Downtown Partnership and the Denver Botanic Gardens partnered to create the Garden Block on the 16th Street Mall.

Flowers abloom on the 16th Street Mall.

The Garden Block is set to beautify the 16th Street Mall.

The Garden Block's goal is to increase the use of the 16th Street Mall.

Located on the 16th Street Mall between Curtis and Champa streets, the Garden Block greens up the downtown scene and encourages mallgoers to stop and stay awhile.  
The 16th Street Mall is one of the most popular attractions in Denver. Now it's a little more attractive, too, thanks to the teamwork of the Downtown Denver Partnership and Denver Botanic Gardens. The resulting Garden Block features mini-installations of artistic plant life that stand out in their urban surroundings.
Ryan Sotirakis, Public Realm Design Specialist for the DDP, started working for the partnership about a year ago and has been managing the project ever since. The desire to expand the mall's "core blocks" had been planted before he arrived.
"It's been an ongoing project for a couple years in terms of how to better activate those blocks, specifically in the median, and really ways to create some unique identities for them, some identities that are specific and relevant to Denver," says Sotirakis.
A growing interestThe Garden Block is set to beautify the 16th Street Mall.
The DDP and Denver Botanic Gardens proposed different projects on the Mall, but it was the idea of a garden that took root. With the Garden Block is set to officially open with a kickoff event on Aug. 7, Sotirakis says he wants to catch mallgoers' interest.
"We hope that it really just increases the use of the mall and the median space -- specifically, that it changes the perception of how that space can be used," says Sotirakis.
The Garden Block is sponsored by the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District (BID), Denver Botanic Gardens, Bellco Credit Union and the Colorado Garden & Home Show. Forethought.net will provide wireless Internet service to the block.
Part of the new Mid-Mall District, the Garden Block is one of four that will invite shoppers to enjoy the art, entertainment and culture that the mall offers, according to Jenny Starkey, Communications and Media Relations Manager for the DDP.
Flower powerFlowers abloom on the 16th Street Mall.
Walk through the gateway entrance and you'll notice that the 10 large half-circle planters are broken up into five individual gardens: the Japanese garden, the woodland garden, the native Colorado garden, the rock alpine garden, and the cactus garden. All the miniature gardens echo larger installations in the full Botanic Gardens on York Street. 
"We'd love to be a part of beautifying and enhancing an already great amenity, the 16th Street Mall," says Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Denver Botanic Gardens, citing an ulterior motive: "We'd like to remind people that we're just a stone's throw, a several minute drive or even a quick bike ride from downtown to Denver Botanic Gardens."
Riley-Chetwynd says all the plants were selected with a key idea in mind: water conservation. Several of the gardens, like the native Colorado and rock alpine ones, include low-water plants.
Leaving a "lingering" impression
So far, companies along the block are joining in on the flower fun, with Starbucks placing hanging baskets along the sidewalk and the Rialto Café setting up flower boxes.
"I think it can be contagious," says Riley-Chetwynd. "You kind of put the wheels in motion and I think a lot of people kind of embrace that theme of celebrating plant life and jumping on board with it."
As summer heats up, the block will add on lunchtime events, a small library, and tables and chairs for patrons.
"Hopefully we give the impression that the mall can be a place to linger and to explore and people-watch, and that's really what a great public space is about," says Sotirakis. "It's less of a place just to pass through and more of a place to come linger and sit and enjoy downtown."

Read more articles by Gigi Peccolo.

Gigi is pursuing a B.A. in journalism at the University of Denver. She has previously served as assistant news editor at DU's student paper, The Clarion.
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