Major event aims to close 3.5-mile stretch of Broadway to cars, worrying some small businesses

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DENVER — ¡Viva! Streets Denver is an event to get cars off the road and more people out and about.

“It’s really bringing our communities out to a street to bike, walk, stroll, linger, hang out in a place. We really want the event to support our local businesses and to help people be active and have a place to recreate safely in the street,” said Andrew Iltis, vice president of planning and community impact with the Downtown Denver Partnership.

It’s modeled after popular ¡Viva! Streets events in places like Tucson, Los Angeles and Mexico City. DDP expects the event to attract 15,000 to 25,000 participants each of the four Sundays it’s scheduled this year.

The event will close off Broadway from Five Points through downtown Denver and all the way to Alameda from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m each of the days.

¡Viva! Streets Denver

“Imagine what we do for Taste of Colorado, but just expanded over the 3.5 mile corridor,” said Iltis.

There would also be live music, vendor booths, art and other activities spread out along the route.

“It’s so long, and we’re at the end of the route,” said Jameson McCloud, general manager at The Headspace. “Effectively, it’s closing us down, and we’re at the end of the line. So are we really going to be getting the benefit of foot traffic flow? Or is it really just going to be a dead end on a closed street?”

The Headspace is one of several South Broadway businesses who have expressed concerns about the complete closure of Broadway. The store sells clothes, accessories, rocks and fragile crystals that vary in size and weight.

“It’s cool to get people biking and whatnot, but ultimately, street car traffic is what brings us customers,” said McCloud. “We need car customers because you can’t take rocks on your bike.”

The store is part of the Broadway Merchants Association.

The BMA called the event “friendly fire” in a statement.

“It is the duty of the Broadway Merchants Association to convey the thoughts and feelings of more than 100 vibrant and diverse small businesses in our community. When the Association discovered the Viva Streets event from a recent Denverite article we were concerned it might negatively affect small businesses. Accordingly, The Association asked for opinions from business owners regarding the Viva Streets event proposed for this summer. 84% of respondents were upset about the event and did not want it to occur. Over the course of two meetings the BMA relayed this information to the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) and the Viva Streets planning committee. We offered a compromise with a partial closure of Broadway, or for our section of Broadway to be excluded from the event. Those alternatives were denied. It is our understanding that the event will move forward with a complete closure of Broadway which will hurt small businesses. This feels like friendly fire from an organization (DDP) and the City of Denver who are supposedly committed to the success of small businesses.”

Several businesses told Denver7 they did not know about the event until the dates were released.

“I feel the event coordinator should have come to each business and given us an idea of what they were doing, what they were thinking, and then we could have given our concerns on how to make this event work for everyone,” said Marvin Gutierrez, co-owner of Matthew Morris Salon and Skincare.

The private parking lot they pay for will sit empty on the Sundays when Broadway is shut down. That’s typically when they host employees from all three of their locations to do training.

“When I told him that this would affect my business, he basically said it was set in stone and there was nothing we can do,” Gutierrez said of a recent meeting between DDP and South Broadway businesses.

DDP said the route is set, but they do want to hear feedback from business owners as they continue planning.

“We’re hoping to work through some of those considerations around parking and some of those disruptions to businesses. Hopefully that additional surge of foot traffic really helps to boost the activity in those neighborhoods,” said Iltis.

The proposed dates for ¡Viva! Streets Denver are May 14, June 4, July 9 and August 6. DDP said more solid details about what the event will look like are expected to be released in April.

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