Mass transit and retail transform historic building
Union Station still on track
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 02:02
Union Station may now look like little more than a misplaced relic of a past age, but the people behind its redevelopment promise that the station will become LoDo’s crown jewel.
“This is one of the greatest projects in the Denver region,” said Jerry Nery, RTD’s Union Station project manager.
RTD estimates that by the time rail service debuts in 2016, Union Station will serve over 100,000 commuters daily—and in 15 more years, double that number. It’s clear that the vision of the station’s developers is to create a station that will serve Colorado’s future, rather than settle for addressing the complaints of the present.
Originally built in 1881, Union Station was a symbol of Denver’s 19th century booming times. When train travel was at its peak in the 20th century, the station had up to 80 trains a day pass through and served presidents, foreign heads of state, and the masses alike, according to the Union Station project authority. Before it was closed to the public this past December, the station was seeing only a single Amtrak train, and the historic interior had suffered from years of deferred maintenance.
The new Union Station and its underground bus terminal will be the culmination of decades of mass transit work done over RTD’s history. “[The terminal will be] about a 1,000 feet long, 165 feet wide, and 25 feet below the surface. That will have all our regional and express buses, future Bus Rapid Transit, the new downtown circulator, and a couple local routes,” Nery said.
Nery referred to a couple of new projects that will use Union Station as a hub: first, BRT, a system of separate bus lanes and high-capacity vehicles that may be put to use on the US 36 Corridor.
Second is the downtown circulator, which is especially interesting for students who commute throughout the city. “What it will be doing,” Nery said, “Is a route that will originate in the underground bus facility and travel to Broadway towards the art museum, [using] 18th and 19th streets...That’s supposed to relieve some of the congestion we anticipate in the next 30 years on the 16th Street Mall.”
Though it’s thrilling to contemplate Union Station’s future as Colorado’s transportation hub, even more exciting for some will be the re-imagining of the station’s former status as the Queen City’s social center. The last much-lauded restaurant in Union Station was Sarah and Bill Morgan’s Cajun spot, the Union Station Restaurant. Now at 70 percent completion, its planned boutique hotel and 22,000 square feet of retail space may signal an evolution in Downtown living—some restaurant proposals floated have been a 24-hour diner or a gourmet dining hall in the style of Mario Batali’s Eataly.
And while most of the surrounding lots are being built up with commercial and residential space, Kroger has inked a deal to open a King Soopers on the ground floor of a residential development, right next to Union Station and less than a mile from campus. Both the public and private
developments are vital in the future of Union Station, Nery said. “They both feed off each other.”