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Denver Union Station Update #125

Amtrak’s return to Denver Union Station was a great event and we were able to get a great look at the new train hall canopy. In case you missed it, head on over to DenverUrbanism to check it out! In this update, we are going to revisit the canopy during the day.

Even during the day, this structure is awe striking; not to mention very large. While walking through the platforms, you will notice that  this train hall will serve both as a very functional train station and a great open public space.

 

 

Shelter from the weather was a very popular subject when the station was under construction and, given the station is almost complete, Amtrak will have the only covered platforms. Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. When it is precipitating it would be nice to have some kind of shelter. Shelter, however, can be found everywhere. there are large areas of the train hall that are covered, including platform 1 which is reserved for the A-Line to Denver International Airport. You can also seek shelter under Amtrak’s platform 3, which is a central point between all of the other platforms, inside the historic structure and down in the underground bus facility. I was more concerned about the ice that was under all of the platforms. Because of the brand new concrete, ice melt cannot be used yet. Fear not, I was assured by a Denver Transit Partners supervisor that this will not be a problem next winter.

 

Here are two additional pictures of the station: The covered walkway to the historic station, and the 18th Street pedestrian bridge. The metal fence over the tracks on the pedestrian bridge looks sharp and will still be able to provide a great view to watch trains go to and from the station!

 

Last but not least, here is an example of the signage that will be used throughout the station. It is very straight forward with different icons and colors depending on the mode of transportation you are taking.

This will be the last time we visit Denver Union Station’s train hall canopy until its grand opening on May 9th. We will see you then!


Denver Union Station Update #124

In case you haven’t already checked out Ryan’s fantastic photos—and time lapse video!—of Amtrak’s return Friday night to Denver Union Station, please do so over at DenverUrbanism.

Great job, Ryan! And congratulations to Amtrak and to the entire Denver Union Station project team. The next milestone for the Union Station project is May 9 when Wynkoop Plaza and RTD’s underground Union Station Bus Concourse will open.


City Approves Redevelopment Plan for Former St. Anthony’s Hospital Site

On Wednesday, December 18, 2014, the City of Denver Planning Board approved the general development plan (GDP) for the redevelopment of the former St. Anthony’s Hospital site on the south shore of Sloan’s Lake in the West Colfax neighborhood of Denver (the GDP was officially signed on Tuesday, January 14). The GDP will transform the old hospital site into a mixed-use urban town center across from one of Denver’s largest parks and minutes away from the new Perry Street light rail station on the new West Line. With passage of the GDP, EnviroFinance Group (EFG), the owners and horizontal developers of the property, (i.e. they don’t build buildings) now have the go ahead to build new streets, install infrastructure, and sell parcels to vertical developers (i.e. those who DO build buildings). The following diagram (courtesy of RNL, the site planners of the project) shows how this project intends to link to the park and the existing transit stop.

The plan for the site reintegrates the Denver street grid, by extending Raleigh and Quitman Streets as well as West 16th Avenue into the site, creating six new Denver-standard blocks. Raleigh Street is to become a new main street through the development complete with ground floor retail, restaurants, office space and an exciting new anchor development (similar to the Lowenstein project on East Colfax) where it meets West Colfax (the circle labeled “identity” in the above diagram). The right-of-way along the new Raleigh Street will be wider than Denver’s minimum requirements in order to accommodate additional pedestrian amenities, street trees, and sidewalk cafes as shown in the following conceptual rendering:

In 2006, a task force of local residents set forth a vision for the site that included the reintroduction of the street grid, a dense mix of uses for the site, and preservation of some of the existing buildings. The developer has followed their instruction and is retaining four buildings on the site: The 1940’s Kuhlman building (a former nurses dormitory which is slated to become a new boutique hotel), the existing 4-story parking garage, a 4 story-office building on the block near Colfax (which will be re-skinned), and a historic chapel on the site. The historic chapel happens to fall within what would have become the West 16th Avenue right-of-way, but the developer has chosen to stop the street short of the chapel and create a 1-acre public plaza in front of the chapel as part of the project’s open space requirement set forth by the city. West 16th Avenue will be designed in such a way that it could be closed down to extend the plaza for festivals, farmers markets, and other events in the neighborhood. As part of EFG’s efforts to achieve LEED-ND Platinum certification for the project, they are planning on installing natural storm water management features along West 16th Avenue as well. The following is a conceptual site plan of the project:

As of now, EFG has almost completely demolished the hospital and is currently grinding up all the old concrete to be reused as road base for the new streets. Early this year, they’ll start re-grading the site, installing utilities, and creating the new streets. The photo below is  a panorama of the site taken from the top of the Metro Village Apartment tower at Colfax and Quitman Street. The photo shows the breadth of the site and some of the great views that will be had by the new residents. You can also see the Kuhlman building (on the upper right) the parking garage (on the left) and the little chapel (behind the parking garage) that are being saved as part of the development.

When the project is complete, the seven city blocks under redevelopment will likely contain 800-1,200 new residential units and 75,000 – 150,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving office/retail space in buildings that range in height from two to twenty stories (although anything over 5 stories will have to go through a re-zoning process). According to the developer, “the redevelopment of the former St. Anthony Hospital campus will create a new sustainable urban neighborhood that has a unique identity, informed in large part by its engagement with Sloan’s Lake Park.” The mixed-use project certainly capitalizes on its proximity to multiple modes of transit, and brings neighborhood-serving retail to a currently under-served neighborhood. The St. Anthony’s project should be a very exciting infill development in Denver and will hopefully be a catalyst for significant reinvestment along West Colfax Avenue.

For more info on the Plan for this development, go to: www.sloansdenver.com. EFG currently has three developers on contract to develop Phase 1 of the development. Each developer will be unveiling the plans for their buildings at an open house on January 22, 2014 from 5:30-7:30 PM at 1400 Quitman Street (just south of the project site). After the unveiling, EFG will post the developers’ plans and renderings to their website, so stay tuned. St. Anthony’s should be an exciting urban infill project!


Denver Union Station Update #120

For our fifth and final Denver Union Station update for today, let’s take a look at the new 17th Street Gardens (plus the one block of 17th Street between Chestnut and Wewatta) that recently opened.

The 17th Street Gardens sit on top of the underground bus terminal and surround big skylights that provide natural light to the pedestrian concourse below. The gardens were landscaped last year, so the trees and plants have had some time to become established before the gardens were opened to the public. Here’s the one-block stretch of 17th Street that’s now open. On the left is the Cadence project under construction:

On the opposite side of the 17th Street right-of-way is the main pedestrian walkway along the edge of the gardens. This is the main path pedestrians will take to get from the light rail station to the commuter rail station. The vacant parcel to the right will someday (soon, hopefully!) be occupied by a major mixed-use project. There’s room on both sides of the 17th Street Gardens for restaurant patio areas for adjacent developments:

The gardens themselves consist of a series of small “rooms” in between each set of skylights. Each has a unique design featuring a different colored or surface material, benches or seatwalls, and landscaping:

That’s it folks. Five posts in one day… a new DenverInfill Blog record!

You’re now up to speed on the Union Station project. However, seeing the project in photos is one thing. Seeing it in person is another. Therefore, I invite you to join me for our next Denver Union Station walking tour on Saturday, June 15. Tour details will be posted a few days in advance.


Denver Union Station Update #119

Our last three Denver Union Station update posts have looked at what’s happening on the downtown side of the project along Wynkoop Street. Now, let’s check out the progress being made on the Central Platte Valley (northwest) side of the station.

First, the new section of 16th Street between Wynkoop and Wewatta continues to near completion. The roadway is now finished, the landscaped median is in, and trees will soon be planted along the sidewalks. This last block of 16th Street should open in its final configuration soon:

Wewatta Street is now open! It was in September of 2011 when the stretch of Wewatta Street between 16th and 19th was closed and removed to allow for excavation of the southeastern half of the underground bus terminal. Twenty-one months later, it has reopened. The new Wewatta Street still feels pretty construction-y, with lane closures and not many of the sidewalks open yet, given construction of the 13-story Cadence and the 21-story 1650 Wewatta projects (plus the Union Station project itself) along its edges. But, you no longer have to detour to Chestnut Street to cross from 15th to 20th behind Union Station:

The new Wewatta Street affords you a close-up view of the Wewatta Pavilion (photo above) and the fabric being installed on the dramatic canopy structure surrounding the new commuter rail platforms:

Being able to get physically closer to the canopy structure gives us a better sense of its scale. The photo below shows workers at the northern end of the canopy, where the pedestrian bridge crosses over the platforms:

For this post’s high-resolution bonus photo, here’s a shot of the entire pedestrian bridge structure. On the far left edge of the photo, the rust-colored box-like structure is the top of the elevator core located next to the stairwell adjacent to the IMA Financial Center and Wynkoop Plaza (see Update #116). In the center and center-right of the photo are two more (white) box-like structures. Those are the tops of the elevators that will allow you to drop down to the two sets of platforms in the center of the commuter rail station area. Finally, at the far right edge of the photo, another white box-like structure is the elevator core at the end of the bridge that will allow you to drop down to Wewatta Street:

In Update #120, we’ll take a look at the newly opened 17th Street Gardens!


Denver Union Station Update #115

This is a very short Denver Union Station development update.

The first fabric panels are being installed on the commuter rail canopy structure!


RTD West Line Countdown at DenverUrbanism!

We’re now only four days away from the grand opening of RTD’s West Line to Golden! To celebrate the occasion, we are doing a five-day countdown over at DenverUrbanism: each day a new transit-related post. Then, after our Opening Day post this Friday, we’ll do another five-day’s worth of transit posts (a “countup”!) to continue the celebration.

Photo credit: Ryan Dravitz

So, make sure you check out DenverUrbanism every day to help commemorate Denver’s rail transit system growing by another 12 miles!


Denver Union Station Update #113

Beyond the obvious importance to the region’s transportation future, one of the other benefits of the Denver Union Station project is the addition of several new public spaces to Downtown Denver. In particular, Wynkoop Plaza will be not only the largest of Union Station’s new public spaces, but potentially the best public plaza in all of Downtown.

The southern part of Wynkoop Plaza will feature a signature fountain: the pop-up water-jet type that allows kids (and adults and dogs) to play in the water on a warm day. People love interacting with water, and people love watching people interacting with water. Therefore, the fountain at Wynkoop Plaza is likely to be a hit with visitors and locals alike.

In case you haven’t seen some of the concept renderings of the Wynkoop Plaza fountain, here are a few (courtesy of SOM/Hargreaves Associates, the project’s design consultants). First, the larger context: the Downtown side of the DUS project and the south part of Wynkoop Plaza.

 

Ground-level concept views:

 

How is construction of Wynkoop Plaza and its signature fountain coming along? Here’s a shot I took this weekend:

Lots of serious fountain infrastructure there. That’s going to be one impressive fountain!

By the way, because I know some of you are going to bring this issue up, I’ll address it now. Denver doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to keeping fountains in good working order on a long-term basis. Our typical fountain experience in Denver is like this: 1.) New public fountain gets built. 2.) Fountain works great for a few years. 3.) Fountain stops working. 4.) Fountain sits unused and in disrepair for a long time. 5.) Concerned citizens eventually say “What a shame. We should get this fountain going again!” 6.) Fountain repair fundraising and/or Denver bond issue ensues. 7.) Fountain gets fixed and works great for a few years. 8.) Rinse and repeat.

So what will be different this time? Well, that issue has been a primary focus of Union Station Advocates, an organization that I’ve been involved with for many years. We want to make sure that not only the fountain, but all of Denver Union Station’s public spaces are well maintained over the long term. Currently, RTD, the Denver Union Station Project Authority, and other stakeholders like Union Station Advocates and the Downtown Denver Partnership are working together to craft a funding and management plan for Wynkoop Plaza that will ensure that years from now, kids (and adults and dogs) will still be splashing around in the fountain at Wynkoop Plaza. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, thank you to the 31 people who attended our walking tour of the Denver Union Station project yesterday! That was a great way to start of our 2013 tours of this exciting project. Our next tour is scheduled for Saturday, March 30, at 10:00 AM. More info on that as the date approaches.