Boarded windows and cleanup efforts, downtown Denver after a weekend of property damage

After protests shook downtown Denver over the weekend, with some among the crowds smashing windows, spray-painting buildings and stealing merchandise from stores, business owners, landlords and others in the heart of the city are taking stock of the damage, updating their policies and planning to clean up.

As of Tuesday morning, the Downtown Denver Partnership was aware of 238 incidences of property damage in the city’s core neighborhoods, most of which came in the form of graffiti or broken windows. Of those, 130 occurred on the 16th Street Mall, said Tami Door, the partnership’s executive director.

Door’s organization manages the downtown area’s tax-funded business improvement district and performs a number of tasks, including cleaning. She said the partnership’s purple-clad crews have been out at 5 a.m. each day after the evening protests sweeping up broken glass and putting plants back in planters, among other tasks.

“It’s incredibly well-cared-for given what it has experienced in its physical spaces over the last few days,” Door said of the downtown area.

The partnership is circulating a survey to businesses and property owners asking them to highlight damages caused by protesters. It is also asking volunteers to help out.

The partnership is organizing two events — one Wednesday and one on Friday morning — to clean up downtown and support businesses there. Volunteers are asked to meet in Skyline Park at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe streets at 7 a.m. wearing masks and be prepared for a morning of removing graffiti, picking up debris and passing out water to workers repairing storefronts.

Part of the power of cities, Door said, is they provide a place for people to gather and advocate for change.

“When that is done in a healthy way and in a peaceful way it is incredibly powerful. This is all a representation of systemic issues in our society that must be addressed,” Door said. “I want to separate that from what we have experienced late into the night.”

Cassandra Allen-Brown’s store, Yarn Shoppe Denver, has not been damaged during demonstrations, but a T-Mobile store located in her building at 1615 California St. has had two windows broken. Still, the protests have impacted her business. Some of her customers felt unsafe coming downtown in the later afternoons, so Allen-Brown is closing her store at 1 p.m. on the four days it is open this week. Its hours had already been shortened to 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s like a double-double hit, but we’ll get through it because this too shall pass,” Allen-Brown said.

An African-American woman who grew up in northeast Denver and Aurora, Allen-Brown said she is deeply saddened that police officers are still killing black men in 2020. She said that the vandalism that has swept through downtown does not honor the victims of police violence like George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose killing at the hands of a police officer has now motivated six days of demonstrations in Denver.

Gart Properties, the company that owns and operates the Denver Pavilions and the 16th Street Mall building containing the Target store and other businesses, has also changed its business practices because of the protests, president Mark Sidell said.

Gart has relaxed rules around when tenant business in the Pavilions needed to be open, it is shutting down its underground parking structure at 7 p.m. each night and it has added extra security guards. The company has also removed trash cans, patio furniture and other fixtures that might be picked up and thrown and connected businesses that have suffered property damage with contractors to board up windows.

“We hope we have more peaceful protests and we keep making progress because as a country we have a ways to go,” Sidell said. “But I would like to see progress without the setbacks of property damage and police activity.”

Sidell said he is looking forward to the future of the 16th Street Mall area. His company has applied for city permission to close a portion of Glenarm Street to allow for outdoor dining.