Efforts continue to revitalize downtown Denver amid ongoing construction on 16th Street Mall, and since the pandemic and higher crime rates wiped out a number of businesses.
In the last year, several chain businesses, like Corner Bakery, TJ Maxx, and Caribou Coffee, left the mall. But still new businesses are opening their doors.
"It's like a little piece of Norway," said Norwegian bakery customer Lise LeBlanc.
The taste of Norway opening on Denver's 16th Street Mall.
"The traditional Norwegian pastry, it's called a school roll and it's a sweet cardamom dough with custard," said Ana Fanakra, owner of Ana's Norwegian Bakeri.
After months of preparation, Ana's Norwegian Bakeri opened between Curtis and Champa streets on Sunday.
"It has been a long journey but very very worth it. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be down here," said Fanakra.
Loyal customers flocked to the bakery's second location.
"We like the buns and all the baked goods that she has, it remind us of home," said LeBlanc.
It's one of eight businesses that have opened in the construction zone of the mall since spring of 2022. In that time, six others have left. Some business owners have previously told CBS Colorado that crime, homelessness, and a lack of foot traffic lead them to close their doors.
"I can see that there might be some issues with some of those things, but it's not something that we personally have experienced here. I feel pretty safe in this location," said Fanakra.
The Downtown Denver Partnership says activity downtown is now at least 85% of what it was pre-pandemic.
"I've been down here a lot in the last several months and it seems like there's more and more people coming back down here," said Fanakra.
The mall's newest addition is optimistic about downtown's future.
"If we can do a little part in making people feel like they are connected to something and feel supported and belong somewhere, that's what I wanna do because then that will trickle out," said Fanakra.
The bakery opened with the help of Popup Denver, a program that incentivizes and supports new businesses to open downtown. We'll know by the end of the year whether the program will receive funding for another round of activations next year. If so, applications will likely open in February. Entrepreneurs can sign up now on the FAQ page of the website to be notified if and when that happens.
Popup Denver shared the following information about this round of activations and recent closures on the mall:
The second round of Popup Denver expanded to include three tracks that have benefited a total of 30 retail entrepreneurs so far: a Maker Track, supporting 28 early-stage retail entrepreneurs through workshops with program sponsor Wells Fargo, and opportunities to sell products at both Denver Startup week and holiday markets (Grand Illumination on 11/24 and the galleria at the Arts Complex 12/2-12/19); an Explorer Track, providing 2 local business owners with a lowered risk opportunity to enter the downtown market (at least six months of abated rent, plus support with safety/security, digital marketing, design/permitting); and most recently, a Traveler Track, to incentivize retail lease signing (17 out of the 27 new businesses downtown in 2023 have been non-retail uses like restaurants and museums). We have received one application so far for the Traveler track, which requires a signed lease for a minimum of three months. More details on all three tracks, and websites for the 28 Maker entrepreneurs is available at www.popupdenver.org
Storefront closures on 16th Street have been tracked with the start of construction in the spring of 2022 as a baseline. Since that time, six businesses have closed within the construction zone and eight businesses have opened. Vacancy for all of 16th Street has dropped since we started tracking storefront activation in October, from 32% to 30%.
Businesses lost from the construction zone since 2022:
Businesses gained in the construction zone since 2022:
Ana's Norwegian Bakeri
Museum of Illusions
Museum for Black Girls