An iconic Colorado mall was torn down in the late 1990s, but for the past three years architect Josh Goldstein has been rebuilding what once was—at least virtually.
Cinderella City stood at what is now the intersection of Hampden Avenue and Santa Fe Drive in Englewood from 1968 to 1998. The more than 1.5 million-square-foot mall was popular among area residents and took claim as the largest mall west of the Mississippi, according to the Denver Public Library.
Today, the property is home to a light rail station, 24 Hour Fitness, and city of Englewood offices. However, what’s gone is not lost. Littleton native Goldstein is drawing on historic artifacts and contributed photos and memories to rebuild Cinderella City through virtual reality.
“The mall was the thing that got me interested in architecture, in that when I was young, my parents drove me by the [mall], and it was being demolished,” says Goldstein, now 30. “I don’t think at the time I had ever seen anything being demolished before. And certainly nothing of that scale.”
Goldstein says he hoped to finish the simulation in one year for what would have been the mall’s 50-year anniversary. His intent was to build a simplified version, but says that didn’t satisfy him. So, he began adding people, signs, trees, and music. “It sort of snowballed from there,” he says.
To build the simulation, he’s using a 3D modeling software called FormIt as well as video game engineering software Unity. He’s also building the mall in reverse starting with an ’80s/’90s model and working his way back to a ’60s/’70s version. “Seeing the model get more developed and the mall feel more alive … feels like you’re watching the mall’s life play out in reverse,” Goldstein says.
Goldstein released a video of the project on April 20. The video highlights a “time-traveling” component, through which viewers can move among the different eras. Goldstein says it will allow the mall to change underneath you.
The majority of the ’80s/’90s version of the mall is complete and the ’60s/’70s simulation should be done sometime next year. When finished, the Cinderella City Project will be a computer simulation, similar to a video game that can also connect to a VR headset. A copy of the project will be donated to the city of Englewood for a semi-permanent exhibit, Goldstein says. He will also offer a downloadable version for the public.
But while the virtual reality tour will certainly make longtime Denverites feel nostalgic, it simply can’t bring back the mall’s iconic fountains, architecture, and overall experience—complete with a one-of-a-kind kids’ birthday party thrown at the always epic Funtastic Nathan’s.
How to contribute: Anyone with memories or photos of Cinderella City can share them with Goldstein on Facebook or Instagram. A phone line is also set up for people to call-in a memory about the mall. These recorded memories are something Goldstein might add to future versions of the simulation.