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This mural by local artists Pat Milbery, Jason Graves, Pat McKinney, and Remington Robinson covers the central part of the Square on 21st. Photograph by Pat Milbery

The Square on 21st Is Denver’s Newest Summer Park

Denver city planners have shut down a portion of 21st Street in downtown to create a pop-up community space—and you won’t want to miss it.

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It used to be just a regular city street, home to a few bars and late-night joints. But starting today, a Ballpark block will become Denver’s newest, coolest park—complete with a dog run, a bike trail, food trucks, trees, and special events such as group bike rides, dance parties, and musical performances.

The Square on 21st is a summer-long park installation that will take over 21st Street between Larimer and Lawrence streets. Park organizers say the two-month experiment (the park will be open through August 15) will help gauge the feasibility of creating similar, permanent parks in bustling city neighborhoods.

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Steven Chester of Denver Community Planning & Development, the organization tasked with implementing the park, said they chose Ballpark because the area currently lacks a central meeting place. City planners researched which roads were the least traveled, and decided the 21st block between Larimer and Lawrence streets would be most apt for the project.

The initial idea to turn 21st into what Chester calls a “festival street” goes back to 2010, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the project took off. Over the past year, more than five city divisions as well as other organizations—including local neighborhood associations, the Denver Downtown Partnership, and private companies like PetSmart, among others—came together to bring the pop-up park to life. PetSmart donated the dog park, which will travel to other parts of the Mile High City after its two month stay in Ballpark.

The widespread involvement, Chester says, has everything to do with how residents have pushed the city for a neighborhood center such as this. “I’ve worked in Community Planning & Development for six years, and I’ve never worked on a project that has the massive community support like this one,” Chester says. “The residents here were actually upset when they found out the park would be gone after two months.”

The Square on 21st is also part of the Downtown Loop project, an effort by the Downtown Denver Partnership to create a 5.280-mile loop that would connect Denver’s cultural centers and parks by turning underutilized streets into a trail that prioritizes cyclists, people, and trees over automobiles. Inspiration for the idea, Chester says, came from the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. City planners expect to use the Square on 21st to test the viability of the Downtown Loop in Denver.

While the future of these projects is uncertain, one thing is for sure—residents and visitors should take advantage of the Square on 21st while it’s here.

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If you go: The Square on 21st is open from June 15 to August 15 on 21st Street between Larimer and Lawrence streets. Find more information and check out the special events calendar here

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