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Union Station: The Platform Update #7

Staying with our Union Station theme week, it’s time to check in with the private sector development going on in the redevelopment field. Our first stop will be at ‘The Platform'; a 21-story, 288-unit, apartment tower, developed by Holland Partner Group.

As we mentioned in our last update, the tower is starting to make its mark on the northwestern end of Denver’s skyline. The Platform, as of today, has risen 18 out of a total 21-stories. On Saturday, workers were busy raising the hoist elevator up to the 18th floor.

2014-05-10_ThePlatform-01 2014-05-10_ThePlatform-02

Now that the commuter rail train hall is open, we were able to freely take photos from the station. The tower is litterally inches away from the commuter rail canopy. If you look closely, the side of the tower facing the canopy has a slight curve to it.

2014-05-10_ThePlatform-04 2014-05-10_ThePlatform-05

The facade on the tower has also started to rapidly climb; which will consist of grey and white concrete paneling. The white paneling will be on the 21-story portion of the tower, and the grey paneling on the 13-story portion. The north side will also have a glass curtain wall on the corners of the building.

2014-05-10_ThePlatform-08 2014-05-10_ThePlatform-07

The blank wall, facing 16th Street Mall, will soon be covered up by the new 12-story Kimpton Hotel; part of the 16th and Wewatta Hotel / Office Complex. This gives us a great gauge on how tall the hotel will be!

2014-05-10_ThePlatform-09 2014-05-10_ThePlatform-06

The Union Station Transit Center grand opening was a huge milestone in the redevlopment project. The developers of Holland also recognized this great milestone with a nice message on their building!

2014-05-10_ThePlatform-03

The Platform will be the tallest tower in the Union Station redevlopment field and really has started to make its mark on the skyline. With three floors to go, I’m sure we will see this tower top out in the next month or two!

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36 Comments

  1. Ramon says:

    Ugh, Denver.

    I love you, but the Platform looks like a real wasted opportunity. I know we can’t expect every new building in Denver to be the next Hamilton wing. But it seems like this building was a lackluster effort. Denver deserved more pride and ambition at this location.

    • Jeffrey says:

      Agreed. I only hope that street-level retail makes up for what is essentially an uninspiring project.

      • Craig says:

        I agree as well. I’ve lived in lower downtown for 11 years, and have seen lots of transformation. Earlier renderings of potential buildings 3-5 years ago were much more dramatic and striking, however all we’ve basically ended up with is cookie cutter and boring.
        The best new construction I feel is the train hall.

      • Nathanael says:

        The failure to have retail facing the train platform is deeply thoughtless. Once the Gold Line opens, this will be absolutely prime retail space, and it’s been occupied with a *blank wall*.

        At least it will get a mural.

  2. Ken Schroeppel says:

    Really? This is what you have to offer as comments? $1 billion in private development around a $500 million new transit center next to our fully restored historic train station that, together, is completely transforming how this city transports itself and is propelling this city to the next level in its evolution as an urban center… and that’s what you have to offer? Disappointed. Comments like these are not why I started DenverInfill. You’re so missing the point.

    • Jeffrey says:

      Ken, we’re talking about the architecture of the Platform. It is not especially compelling. We like DenverInfill.

    • Ryan Dravitz says:

      I agree with Ken on this one and I honestly do not understand what the criticism is lately with this tower. Is it the precast? The overall design? These comments have thrown me a hook from the initial praise this project received. This was the tower everyone wanted, and were unanimous excited about when we saw the renderings; which look no different than what’s going up today. Another confusing thing is that we are already judging a tower when it’s still mostly a concrete shell with some scattered panels and glass. Let’s keep our eye on the prize here and reserve these kind of judgments until the tower is actually complete. Here’s a reminder of what we are getting:

      The Platform Rendering - DBJ

    • DC says:

      Thank you for all your hard work that put into this blog. I have found it fascinating going back and reading about the progress in the area. I remember not to long ago walking from the Highlands to Downtown and having to cross empty fields. Now downtown and the Highlands feel connected thanks to Union Station redevoplment. The arcitacture may not be to everybody’s taste but I don’t feel that is the point of this blog.

    • Jerry G says:

      These comments remind me of several other comments that have appeared before on Denver Infill bemoaning the lack of individuality or the non-uniqueness of the architecture of a particular building. If this building was going to be Denver’s new tallest, then I would agree with you. However, this building is not that. It is a very attractive tower that will fit in very well within the US neighborhood. Which is perfect, because there already are two unique pieces of architecture: Union Station and the train shed. Filing up the area with sculpture-type buildings will just detract away from those two unique structures.

    • TakeFive says:

      Always easy to critique how others should spend their money.

      Nice to see that foreign investors were willing to pay all cash, record setting prices for the two wing buildings and Zocalo’s Cadence apartments. Guess they found the architecture pleasing.

  3. Jim Nash says:

    I keep telling myself, Don’t write any more comments, because it gets too argumentative, too divisive. But Jeffrey and Ramon — and every other architectural critic reading this — just consider the transformation going on here:

    Ever since I was a kid in the late 40s, riding the California Zephyr with Mom out of Union Station, east to Nebraska and later west to Oakland, the land around here was empty, abandoned, nowhere, all the way down to the river. As a young reporter, I did stories on men sheltered in cardboard, under bridges. Hopeless people, freezing in an empty place. Roaming up to cheap bars on Larimer. Depressing. Desolate.

    Now, thousands of people are living here, working here — soon shopping here in a brand new supermarket, about to open. An urban crossroads is emerging on this same land, once empty and forgotten. And you don’t like the “look” of this apartment building? Come on — you’re taking a cheap shot. And you’re missing the whole point of Denver Infill.

    Maybe, in a couple years, when you ride the train in from the airport, and step off into the bustling heart of an emerging great new American city, you’ll appreciate where you are.

  4. Rob C says:

    Meh you guys Jim Nash, Ryan, Ken, you’re all just talking to a bunch of blank walls…or deaf ears; however, you want to look at it. Whether it’s here or on the skyscraper forum, it’s all the same boring story: we want height, we want skyscrapers! Denver won’t be truly great until there’s a new tallest under construction.

    Ken, I remember walking through the old grassy fields and dirt lots behind Union Station with you numerous times. Back then, it was all just rumors and speculation– what would become of all this land? The other day I went down to DUS in the rain when all the crowds had gone and I stood at the corner of Wewatta and 17th and just stopped and stared. So much has been done with so much left to do and it just amazes me. What was once nothing has been turned into so much something with the potential to be even greater.

    Jim Nash’s post above is exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve lived here for just over a decade and the transformation of Denver has been astounding. I’m not an architect. I am not even an urban planner. Hell, I can’t even remember some of the simplest architectural jargon without taking a quick search on Google. Ohhh yes that’s a dentil cornice! Nevertheless, cities are built of brick, mortar and people. There will be some ugly buildings, there will be some forgettable buildings and there will be some stunning examples of modern architecture–perhaps I too am guilty of skyscraper envy–but I will never place a gleaming glass tower over what I can find on the street below. If Denver were nothing more than 5-10 story buildings and every single block was developed bringing with it liveliness and energy, then I would pleased.

    Like art, judging architecture is nothing more than using someone’s subjective opinion. There will always be critics and there will always be fans who look at the critics with furrowed brows. It’s been this way for centuries– I’m sure many a caveman was insulted when another stuck a tongue out at his drawing of a horse on a cave wall. And today, we are just astounded that cavemen drew horses!

    What I am just trying to say is that I love Denver Union Station. I love Denver. And, I love all that’s being done to improve the city I call home.

    As I wax nostalgic, I just want to say thanks to Ken and Ryan for the continued work on DenverInfill. From what was just a little side project has become one of the leading sources of development news in the greater Mountain West. Kudos to you!

  5. Ramon says:

    Ken, Ryan, Jim,

    Sorry for any offense. I obviously think this is a great website, and I wasn’t trying to be rude. Fastracks and the Union Station development are models for the nation.

    I’ll keep my critiques to myself from now on, but I don’t think my comment was a “cheap shot.” A bit hyperbolic? -Yes. However, I think reasonable people can be disappointed in this building given its very prominent location.

    • Jeffrey says:

      Hi Everybody, I also wasn’t meaning to be rude. I like this site (lots), I am hopeful for development in Denver, especially that which is community oriented, and I like mass transit. I also like bold architecture and I believe in taking bold measures to solve problems. One can not like the look of a building, right? I see this project, The Platform, and I’ve also read what has already been said, criticisms about the precast concrete, noting that it is placed snug up against the FastTracks canopy, etc. So, in agreeing with Ramon, I was simply choosing not to say what, in my mind, had already been said. I am generally concerned that the whole FastTracks development is too spread out. I preferred the alternative plan, the one that was, I guess, more expensive. I’ve been disappointed that CityHouse was cancelled. And I’d just like to see more vibrancy in the development that is actually being developed in downtown. Like most people on this site, I love Denver. And for this reason I might not like an occasional building when I think so much more could actually be realized (on occasion). Okay, Bye, and thanks to everybody at DenverInfill.

      • Jim Nash says:

        Ramon and Jeffrey, I sincerely apologize for the “cheap shot” remark — which was a cheap shot on my part. You guys certainly have a valid point about the quality of Denver architecture, which can be pretty mundane. Having ranted about the low-grade public art placed around town in recent years, I have to agree with you about a lot, including the City House disappointment. And Jeffrey, please take back your “Bye” — and come back for more banter, over the great blogs we keep getting from Ken and Ryan and the gang. This website is terrific. I check it almost every day. A wonderful, thought-provoking forum.

        • Jeffrey says:

          Don’t worry about it. One thing that participating on this blogsite teaches me is how people can interpret written words in so many ways. It causes me to reflect on some of my own writing outside of this venue. How difficult it is to effectively communicate nuances and opinions!

  6. John R says:

    Please correct me, Ramon and Jeffrey, if I’m wrong, but I think what the point of the comments was is that they are tired of early-21st century architecture. Paneled, multi-faceted & multi-colored; it all starts to look the same. A mishmash of a building. The brown & yellow building next to this one is an example of the same.

    There are many beautiful buildings downtown built with a level of craftsmanship that isn’t available any more and that’s what I, personally, am jealous of. Brickwork, detail, and yes, dentil cornices :)

    Architecture may not be the focus of the blog, but it definitely affects the neighborhoods we’re building. I think what was hoped is that buildings as timeless and inspiring as Union Station itself would be built, rather than standard early-21st century mishmash.

  7. Dogpatch says:

    Thanks for the amazing updates Ryan (aka Blazer Boy)!!

    I am really impressed with the Platform so far, and a bit confused by some of the comments here. This building is built to the maximum allowable height. It’s not brown. And it’s gonna look great when it’s finished. I love love LOVE how it sits right up next to the train shed. It’s about as much as anyone could want in this location. Kudos to the developers for getting this thing out of the ground so quickly!!

    PS I’ve been following DenverInfill since the very beginning, and it just gets better and better.
    Ken, Ryan, and everyone else who contribute here…your work is truly appreciated!!!!!

  8. John says:

    Is there going to be any retail facing the commuter rail platform? If there is not, gulp, it might be a missed opportunity, at least from the developer’s financial standpoint. For the record I do like the overall look and design of the Platform, and I’m excited to see the final outcome.

    Also, are we going to be allowed to critique Alta City House when the final update is posted, or is that off limits?

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      The retail at the Platform will face Wewatta Street and the plaza around Wewatta Pavilion. Along the side where canopy supports come within a few feet of the building will be a big mural depicting all of Colorado’s 14ers. Then, the new 5-story office/12-story hotel at the end of the canopy will have retail facing both the canopy and 16th Street plus the public passageway to 16th Street.

    • Nathanael says:

      A blank wall will face the commuter rail platform. A massive missed opportunity. Apparently it is planned to put a mural on it.

  9. Keith says:

    I don’t mind The Platform at all. In fact, after
    The Kimpton, Triangle Bldg, and 1601
    Wewatta are built it will mesh with the neigh-
    borhood just fine! How about a mirror image
    (Twin tower) of the Platform on the “B block?!”

  10. Jim Nash says:

    Ken, seems like what’s bubbling up here from the whole urbanist herd are questions about whether the over-all “vision” of the Union Station master plan is still on track — or have some elements changed, as we move past mid-way? We’ve all watched that fly-over animation, and now we’re wondering if the rest of 17th Street will be developed, as depicted. Will a Twin Tower and similar street wall along 17th frame the station with the same height and mass on both sides of the street? What the animation and renderings show is a lot of symmetry, with the terminal building at the apex of 17th and the rail lines. Can you share some insights into planners’ and developers’ current thinking?

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      Yes, another tower approximately the same height on the B Block will be built opposite The Platform on the other side of Wewatta Pavilion, with then likely a second building on the site that steps down to 10-12 stories at 18th Street, mirroring roughly how the Kimpton hotel steps down from The Platform.

  11. Freddie says:

    I’m pretty disappointed with a lot of the architecture going up around Denver. I just don’t think all these look-alike rubik’s cubes that keep popping up all over town are going to age well. But honestly, I don’t have a problem with anything that’s gone up around DUS. It seems there’s just a higher standard there. I really like the look of most of the stuff that’s being built there and I love the fact that it’s diverse. We haven’t (as of yet) gotten a bunch of buildings that look the same. Most of the designs are fairly unique, and there’s a plethora of building materials being used.

    As for this particular building, I’m having a hard time understanding what’s not to like about it. Just because there are two colors being used (white and gray) doesn’t mean we’re getting another uninspired rubik’s cube. I think it actually works really well to separate the two distinct massings of the building with the one being white and the other being gray, while the gray accents on the white half sort of tie it all together. I like all the glass on the corners and the top. Classy. And I love the fact that they went for the maximum height allowed by the zoning.

    The only thing I don’t like is the plain, utilitarian looking wall that abuts the train hall at ground level. But if I’m understanding Ken correctly, they’re going to cover that with a mural? Depending on the quality of the mural, I suppose that could work out really well…I hope.

    • Eracer says:

      There will be another building (hotel/office) put up on that side, so the blank wall will not stay visible for very long…plus from the plans, there will be a pretty cool alleyway between the hotel/office and this tower.

      The new Hotel/Office was detailed in an earlier blog post here:

      http://denverinfill.com/blog/2014/03/new-union-station-project-16th-wewatta-hoteloffice-complex.html

      • Freddie says:

        I’m talking about the ground-level portion of the wall that faces the train hall. Stories 2 through 4 look like a typical parking garage, but the first floor is largely blank with the exception of some vents and whatnot. It looks like that’s the only floor that will be visible underneath the canopy when you’re actually inside the train hall. In a sense, it makes up one of the walls of the train hall. Boring wall. Hopefully the mural will spruce it up without being tacky like some of the corny, western-themed, “Welcome to Denver” signage they’ve had at DIA over the years. For now, I’m remaining optimistic and assuming the mural will make for a huge improvement.

  12. Tyler says:

    I love the Platform’s height and location. And I am very excited to see the continued development around Union Station. And while I love Denver Infill and all the work done by Ken and Ryan and others, I think we sometimes get caught up in infill for infill’s sake. While I don’t think the Platform’s design is terrible, I do have to echo the above commentator’s concerns about architecture.

    Full disclosure, I am not a fan of the boxy modern “21st-century” architecture that is sweeping the new builds of urban Denver. But besides my dislike of this architecture, my concern with the Platform and surrounding buildings going up in the Union Station area comes down to timelessness. My fear is that we will look back on these buildings in 50 years and be incredibly disappointed, much like the boring 60’s and 70’s architecture many currently despise. I also wonder if people’s dislike for these building’s architectural designs will be compounded by the beautiful and timeless architecture sitting mere blocks away in LoDo (and even Union Station itself).

    Also, from a retail perspective, I would be slightly concerned about locating in some of these boring looking buildings if only because better and more appealing options exist in more charming areas like LoDo or Larimer Square.

    I know Ken frequently mentions that these boringly designed buildings are necessary to make the truly iconic buildings, like Union Station, stand out. But here, I think that could better be done with an architecture that compliments Union Station.

    I suppose its just personal preference though. And ultimately, like mentioned above, the Union Station development is still better than empty fields or railyards.

  13. carlospolis says:

    In my humble opinion,I have to agree with Ramon,Jeffrey and Craig. No doubt it is a nice tower, but really nothing out of this world given its location. Personally Im not impressed and most likely it’ll be unnoticed by the general public.
    Just saying…

  14. Kim Allen says:

    I have followed Ken Schroeppel’s Denver Infill since the beginning. With many great contributors
    the site is probably the best personal website dedicated to the public I have ever viewed. Ryan Dravitz adds excellent images of information. Thank you.

    The Platform building is fine, Cadence is fine, the Triangle building is fine etc. etc. People with a whole lot of money and hard work have invested in development business. They are professionals, they know what they are doing. It takes time for an area to mature, I feel confident these buildings will compliment each other well as we move into the future.

    Developers, banks, investors, construction companies do this profession for a living. They are working on plans for next year and next year projects. Huge talent and money are happening in
    Denver/lower downtown, this boom was hard fought. I prefer to appreciate the new design of the majority of buildings, constant badgering of petty complaints against developers is naïve and
    pointless.

    Thank you all at Denver Infill, great work.

    Build on…

    • Jeffrey says:

      Kim, I really don’t agree with the sentiment of your message. While developers, bankers, investors, and construction companies do what they do for a living, and while they (usually) know what they are doing, their interests are not always the same as residents. For this reason it is important that residents express their opinions, and, when necessary, cooperate together for their side of things as well. Most of what is expressed here, on this very fine site, is not “constant badgering” nor is it “petty complaints” nor is it “naïve” nor is it “pointless”.

    • Nathanael says:

      “They are professionals, they know what they are doing.”

      That is never a safe assumption. As an investor, I know for a fact that professionals usually don’t know what they’re doing. They make boneheaded mistakes which are obvious to an ousider. Frequently.

      This is just a general principle.

      If a professional seems to have made a boneheaded mistake, like putting a blank wall into the prime retail spot next to the train platforms… it’s usually because they made a boneheaded mistake. This is why it’s important to contact them and criticize their plans early and often, so that they can correct their boneheaded mistakes before construction.

  15. carlospolis says:

    Well said Nathanael!

  16. AF says:

    Being a part of the Holland Partner Group team I would encourage you to wait until the final product is delivered to make a final opinion. You are seeing the building barely 50% complete. I can also assure you that we did not make a boneheaded mistake and not address the 1st level that faces the platform, this will be one of the last pieces finished on the building. We were unable to put retail in the middle because there would be no entrance for the tenant as we (by code) can’t provide direct access off the platform. I also think the comment that most professionals don’t know what they are doing is inaccurate. There is a lot of research, thought, financial commitment and risk that goes into each and every deal that ultimately drives the final product.

    • Nathanael says:

      Thanks for your comment.

      “We were unable to put retail in the middle because there would be no entrance for the tenant as we (by code) can’t provide direct access off the platform.”

      So it’s the Denver City Zoning Code which made the boneheaded mistake?

      Direct retail access to the platform is fairly normal worldwide. Why does Denver have a special rule against it?

      Usually you want a certain amont of clear space between the platform and the retail entrance (to avoid crowding issues), and you don’t want the platform to be the *only* exit from the retail space — but both these conditions are easily achievable in this case, where the platform is extra-wide and the “back entrance” could be through the building.

      Why wasn’t this rule changed before construction? There were all kinds of zoning code changes going on at the time.

      I would like to know more about this. Please give me exact references to the exact paragraphs of the zoning code which prohibit direct access to the platform. Worthy of note: Denver Union Station’s main tenant, the hotel, will have direct access to the platform via multiple doorways and windows.

      I know that developers tend to be overly conservative and “build to rule”, even when the zoning rules are dumb and poorly thought out, rather than bother to try to get a variance, let alone try to get the zoning fixed. Is that what happened here?

      —-

      Regarding my general comment: of course there’s lots of research, thought, financial commitment, and risk which goes into every deal — that doesn’t mean that you know what you’re doing *all the time*.

      Companies make mistakes all the time. It’s not a reflection on your character; it’s just a reflection on the fact that nobody is perfect, nobody can know everything, and it’s easy to miss something which someone else would have spotted. This is true in every field of work. One should never assume that “professionals know best”, even if they’re the very best and most competent profeessionals.