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New Union Station Project: 16th & Wewatta Hotel/Office Complex

DenverInfill is happy to report that a major project in Downtown Denver’s Union Station redevelopment area is moving forward. Continuum Partners, part of the Union Station Neighborhood Company team responsible for developing several of the key parcels next to Denver’s massive Union Station Transit Center project, announced plans today for a significant mixed-use project along Denver’s 16th Street Mall near the historic station.

One of the prime development sites next to Denver Union Station has been the L-shaped parcel located at the east corner of 16th and Wewatta Street, immediately adjacent to Union Station’s new dramatic white canopy Train Hall, where several RTD commuter rail lines (starting early 2016) and Amtrak trains (starting a few days ago) arrive. A portion of that parcel is already under construction with The Platform at Union Station, a 21-story apartment building. Continuum’s new project represents not only the final piece of this L-shaped parcel to be developed, but a major project in its own right for Downtown Denver. Here’s the site outlined on a Google Earth aerial:

Continuum’s project consists of several components:

  • A 12-story, 200-room Kimpton Hotel that includes over 8,300 SF of meeting rooms, adjacent pre-function space, street-level and rooftop outdoor patios, and two locally based restaurants with podium-level outdoor spaces.
  • A 53,000 SF, five-story boutique office building with 12,500 SF  floor plates designed for smaller firms looking to locate in the Union Station area, plus three ground-floor retail spaces.
  • A two-level, 210-space underground parking structure of which 100 spaces will be reserved for general public parking, thanks to financial support from the Denver Urban Renewal Authority.

Here are some excellent high-resolution project images, thanks to the great team at Continuum and their design partners at Semple Brown Design and BOKA Powell. First, a view of the hotel/office complex looking east at the corner of 16th and Wewatta, with the 16th Street Mall to the right and Wewatta Street to the left (for all images, click/zoom to view in full 2400-pixel-wide size):

Here’s a view looking north, with the 16th Street Mall in the foreground and the Millennium Bridge on the far left edge:

Of course, one of the coolest aspects of this project is that it has two fronts: one facing 16th Street, the other facing the commuter rail platforms at Union Station. Here’s a view looking from under the big white Union Station canopy towards the Kimpton Hotel (right) and office building (left):

Finally, another important aspect of this project is that it will provide a public walkway in between the hotel and office buildings that goes directly from the commuter rail platforms to the 16th Street Mall and a planned RTD Mall Shuttle stop. Here’s the view from the 16th Street Mall looking into that walkway towards the canopy-covered Train Hall:

Continuum’s 16th and Wewatta hotel/office complex is planned to begin construction June 2014 and be completed by late 2015.

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39 Comments

  1. Chris Jones says:

    I LOVE how approachable this is. It has been fenced off for so long I had almost forgotten that I will be able to step off the mall right into the train shed.

  2. Ryan Nee says:

    Awesome! This is about as good of a project as we could have hoped for.

  3. Eric says:

    Aesthetically mediocre, but functionally awesome. Glad to see it moving along!

  4. Patrick says:

    I’m a little concerned that it’s right on top of the new canopy. Sometimes I get concerned with how we smother new architectural landmarks. Look at DIA – the new hotel blocks out the landmark terminal tent. Couldn’t we give Union Station’s new canopy even a little space?

    • Jeffrey says:

      You mean the functionally deficient canopy that doesn’t really protect anybody from the elements?

      I like the hotel at DIA.

  5. Dan W says:

    Are there details about the materials to be used for the grey facade of the hotel? It looks like it could be very attractive if it’s done well!

  6. Dave says:

    Reminds me of the Cyan in Portland except not quite as impressive.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp75A6.tmp_tcm20-692462.jpg

  7. PCVH says:

    The office building and hotel are attractive. The connection to the 16th Street Mall, though, is tenuous at best; it definitely seems like an afterthought. A grander connection would seem preferable. Perhaps a broad covered plaza replacing the ground floor of the office building–and framed by the supporting structure for the building above it–and lined with restaurant/retail space leading to the Mall.

    I realize this isn’t intended to be the main entrance to either the train platform or downtown, but the narrow passageway envisioned here is hardly inspirational and is certainly a wasted opportunity.

    • Nathanael says:

      At peak commute hours, that passageway is going to end up really crowded. It’s a bottleneck. And one which didn’t need to exist.

      I do like your idea of opening up the entire ground floor; that’s probably more width than is necessary, but the passageway as drawn is less width than is necessary.

      The commute flows are largely going to run through here as it is the fastest route from the commuter rail to the southern side of downtown. Entire trains will empty out — probably several at once — and half or more of their passengers will crowd through this one passageway. It’s a bad mistake to make the passageway so narrow.

      Of course, the mistake will only be noticed when Fastracks starts opening in 2016. Then there will be newspaper articles complaining and asking what can be done about this.

      Geez, fix it before construction, please. Double the width of the passage, at least.

      I do like the construction of an additional hotel next to Union Station.

  8. Bruce says:

    I had feared the lack of exposure of the train station to 16th st mall and the pepsi center/speer corridor. HUGE loss of an opportunity to create a visual/movement corridor! The office building should be on stilts – there is still time – someone talk to the owners!!

    • Chad Reischl says:

      I always hoped we could sneak a streetcar out the south end of the terminal, down to Speer Blvd and down to Cherry Creek, but alas, they’re building something in the way. Darn.

    • mckillio says:

      I don’t understand this argument, it’s in the middle of downtown, if you want to look at it, go look at it. The Wing buildings are pulled back from Wynkoop so you can see it from 16th and 18th and there’s already a policy in place to make sure it can be seen from the West.

  9. Bennett says:

    Why are the height limits so low in this area? With all this construction, LODO will become a central part of downtown. It seems like they are preventing some major projects in this are with those restrictions.

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      Long ago (1980s) there was broad community consensus during the preparation of the Central Platte Valley Comprehensive Plan that the area around Union Station was not to become an extension of the Central Business District with its (mostly) unlimited height restrictions but, instead, a mixed-use mid-rise area transitioning down in height the closer you get to the Platte River and LoDo, with most of the taller buildings between the CML and Wewatta except for two 250′ towers flanking the historic station at 17th & Wewatta (The 21-story Platform tower under construction being one of them).

      • Bennett says:

        But in the 80’s they had no idea that Union Station would become the central hub of RTD’s FastTracks, one of the biggest mass transit projects in the nation serving a metro area of more than 2.5 million people. Or that Denver would become one of the fastest growing cities in America! I just don’t understand that when the Union Station master plan was put together, why this outdated consensus to have LODO be a mid-rise transition to the city was not revised to allow Denver to grow to it’s fullest potential.

        Another Question for you: Do you think they will extend the 16 St. pedestrian mall to reach Union Station?

        • Ken Schroeppel says:

          Actually, the 1986 Central Platte Valley Comprehensive Plan and the 1991 amendment to that plan did specifically identify the area behind Union Station as a future regional multi-modal transit hub, similar to what we are seeing built today. Maintaining the pedestrian scale to LoDo is extremely important for a variety of reasons. There are 60+ surface parking lots in the Central Business District where the sky’s the limit. We have no shortage of very high density development sites scattered all around Downtown.

          I don’t understand your second question. The 16th Street Mall was extended to Union Station in 1993.

  10. Bennett says:

    Okay, I see that logic.

    If I am not mistaken 16 St by Chestnut Pl is open for driving on. Am I wrong?

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      Right. The block on 16th between Wewatta and Chestnut is open to regular traffic plus the mall shuttles because otherwise the 1900 16th Street/DaVita buildings wouldn’t have proper access.

  11. Nathanael says:

    Well, at least they’re maintaining the necessary walking connection between 16th St (and the free mall shuttle) and the commuter platforms.

    The passageway is underbuilt for its purpose, quite severely, and will suffer overcrowding. Think about commute patterns: there will be a lot of people coming in on commuter rail and heading downtown.

    In the long run, the entire building will have to be demolished to restore the southbound train tracks.

    It’s a disappointing project, but you can’t blame the developers at all: the decision was made several years ago, when RTD decided that they wanted to slap a random commercial building right bang in between the 16th St mall shuttle and the end of the station tracks, exactly where they shouldn’t be building anything.

    Hopefully the building will be easy to demolish when the time comes to do so. It will certainly be expensive to re-acquire the land when the time comes to do so, which it will.

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      There’s no restoring the southbound tracks. RTD had nothing to do with that decision. The decision to eliminate the southbound through tracks was made in the early 1980s. Many major city train stations are stub-end stations. There’s nothing wrong with Denver Union Station being the same. If we need more rail station capacity beyond what Union Station can provide (with an extra platform under the canopy and room for another platform in the CML), then we’ll do what most big cities do: build another station. (Somewhere in RiverNorth or perhaps Gates seem good spots to consider).

    • UrbanZen says:

      We already have south and west bound tracks at the lightrail station. I don’t get this thinking. Come in from the airport, make a transfer and you’re in Golden or Lone Tree. What do we need the through tracks for? The high speed mag lev monorail that’s going to blow through Denver at 300 MPH from Chicago on it’s San Fran?

  12. Keith says:

    Just think, you’ll be able to fly into Denver, catch a room at the airport Westin, commuter rail 20 miles, then grab a room at either the Kimpton or Crawford!

  13. Keith says:

    Any word yet on what will be developed on the parcel immediately north of the Wewatta Pavilion? Or north of Cadence? With the amount of people that the East Rail will be bringing in from DIA hopefully we will see at least one more hotel!

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      Regarding the parcel north of Cadence…. stay tuned. A big announcement on that will be coming, hopefully within the next month or so.

      Regarding the parcel north of the Wewatta Pavilion… that would be what’s called the “B” Block (the “A” Block is where The Platform/Kimpton Hotel/Office Building projects are located). I’ve not heard of any specific project yet for B Block.

  14. Geoff says:

    The office building is nice looking, but the hotel is pretty ugly. Too bad, there will be so many poorly designed buildings greeting visitors to Denver (I’m looking at you IMA building)

    • Jeffrey says:

      I like this building. The complicated arrangement of windows makes it interesting.

      • Geoff says:

        The complicated arrangement of windows makes it look busy and it will look quite dated in a few years IMO as often happens with buildings that are designed with the latest architecture fad as the primary driving force behind them.

  15. Keith says:

    Look at this rendering of the Platform, in it the Kimpton is white, which would look so much nicer as it matches the color of the Platform more closely. Is there time to get the builder to change it to white?!

    http://sararch.com/projects/in-progress/1650-wewatta-street/

    • Jeffrey says:

      No, please, why do we want it all in white?

      • Keith says:

        Because the darker color looks putrid!

        • Mark B. says:

          The dark brown will make the white of the train canopy stand out more; if this building were white, it would be less dramatic. I love the way the Kimpton looks, with those slot windows looking like an old IBM punch card, and I hope it looks as good as the rendering when it’s built.

          Regarding all of the above comments about the width of the pedestrian passage: remember that this is not the ONLY pedestrian passage, that there are others between the various other buildings between Union Station and Sixteenth Street.

  16. dcovelo says:

    Great to see another Kimpton, I’ve always enjoy my stay at their properties. Off topic but does anyone know why Hilton does not have a hotel in the Denver metro? Many of their brands, Hilton Garden Inn, Doubletree, Hampton, etc. are here but no flagship Hilton.