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A Renovation Worth Waiting For- Denver's Union Station
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A Renovation Worth Waiting For: Denver's Union Station

Feb 11th, 2015

An architectural marvel dating back to 1881, Denver’s Union Station is an iconic structure in the Mile-High City. One of the city’s most historic sites, the old rail station was recently the subject of a 4 million, multi-year renovation.

If you’re a Denver apartment resident who prides yourself on being in the know, brush up on the project details and history of Union Station.

A Brief History

Just seven years after Denver was connected to the main transcontinental rail line via the Denver Pacific Railway, four separate railway stations served passengers in the city. Out of an interest in streamlining traffic and improving the ease of changing trains arose plans for a centralized Union Station.

Denver’s first Union Station, designed by architect William E. Taylor, was completed in 1881. Just 13 years later, a fire destroyed the central portion. Renowned architect Henry Van Brunt was hired to rebuild it in the Romanesque architectural style.

Demand for rail station access continued to rise as Denver’s economy boomed. By the early twentieth century, it was clear an expansion was necessary. This time, Denver-based architects Gove and Walsh were put at the helm. Their project was completed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, and heralded Denver through more growth and nearly a half-century of decline.

Decades in the Making

For a few decades, the new Union Station bustled with energy. Eventually, a rise in demand for air travel and a stagnant economy led to neglect of the transit hub. Denver’s last heyday more or less came to a close in the 1970s. The city’s economy sank. Its population peaked. Its air was filthy. Its most treasured buildings were left for cobwebs, rats, and weather to eat away at. There were plenty of natives and transplants who loved and cared about their city, but the direction of Denver appeared to be headed seemed bleak. Union Station, arguably the crown jewel of the city’s architecture, was no exception.

While the physical renovation didn’t get underway until 2010, nearby land and other historic buildings in the LoDo neighborhood had long been the target of urban renewal efforts. Once life was injected into the surrounding area, reshaping Union Station was a natural next step. Plans for a transformation began in earnest in 2001. By 2008, design concepts were being drawn up. In 2010, early phase work began. By 2012, scaffolding was up and all hands were on deck.

Project Highlights

The renovation was overseen by private developer Union Station Neighborhood Company. In 2008, the developer hired integrated design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to work on the new Great Hall, bus concourse, light rail station, and landscape.

The Great Hall, with its Beaux-Arts features preserved, its capacity expanded, and its grandiosity restored, was undoubtedly the focal point of the transformation. Other project highlights include the bus terminal, light rail station, Crawford Hotel, and public landscape in front of the main entrance.

Union Station Today

With the exception of the East Rail Line light rail extension, which will connect downtown Denver to Denver International Airport, the massive project is finished. In LoDo, the scaffolding that enshrined Union Station for a full year-and-a-half has been removed. The place is hopping. Stoic & Genuine, The Kitchen Next Door, and Snooze are regularly at capacity. The Crawford Hotel’s 118 boutique rooms have attracted no dearth of praise. Amtrak is once again operating out of the station. The newly renovated structure must be one of Denver’s most photographed places.

Once the pieces came together, the renovation was carried out smoothly and rather swiftly. Today, it’s a great place to eat, drink, sleep, and snap photos. Even though Union Station still serves its original function as a transit hub, it’s not just a place for travelers to enjoy. If you live in AMLI Riverfront Park or AMLI Park Avenue, access to Union Station is more convenient for you than for most. Take advantage of this by grabbing breakfast at Snooze, seafood at Stoic and Genuine, a drink at The Kitchen Next Door, or a room at the Crawford Hotel. Just for fun.

Have you visited Denver’s Union Station since the recent renovation was completed? What are your favorite things about it?

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