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Denver Union Station Update #128: The Historic Station Opens!

As we near our final update on the Denver Union Station redevelopment, there is one final milestone in the project that has been reached: the historic station is now open to the public! On Saturday July 12th, Union Station had a soft opening, meaning only a portion of the ground floor retail and amenities inside the building are open. The grand opening and block party will be on July 26th!

To sum it up in a few words, the inside of the historic station looks absolutely incredible. Everything from the new benches and couches, to the historically accurate chandeliers, this building has gone through a complete transformation. I encourage you to head to our post from December 2012 to see the before photos!

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There will be two bars in the station. One on the ground floor and the other on the mezzanine level. The ‘Terminal Bar’ on the ground floor will feature benches on the outside as well as a seating room inside the bar.

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The second level bar will feature multiple couches and chairs along the eastern portion of the mezzanine. Bar seating is also available with a great view of 17th Street!

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The ground floor retail outside the station is done incredibly well. The patios hug the station closely with entrances scattered throughout the wing buildings.

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Last but not least, here are two views I was able to capture from the mezzanine level; one from a hotel room looking towards the Union Station neighborhood and the other from the mezzanine bar!

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This project will be complete by July 26th! We will see you at the grand opening! As the date nears, we will provide you with more information and details about the event.


Denver Union Station: Transit Center Grand Opening Part 5

For the final part of our Denver Union Station Transit Center grand opening coverage, we are going to head back under the very impressive commuter rail train canopy. This was the first completed piece of the transit center when it opened to Amtrak back in February, however our coverage would not be complete if we didn’t photograph it at grand opening!

There are a total of eight tracks, with six of them under the canopy. Tracks 4 and 5 will be used for Amtrak and private excursion trains. These tracks are also more shallow in the ground than the other tracks. As previously mentioned, Tracks 4 and 5 also provide access to the underground bus terminal.

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The other tracks, which will be used for the commuter rail trains, are deeper; much like your typical subway track.

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Here are a couple more pictures from under the canopy. The pedestrian bridge is still closed, but we suspect it will be open by the time the historic station opens on July 12th.

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That’s a wrap on our grand opening coverage! You are now up to speed on the grand opening festivities, underground bus facility, Wynkoop Plaza, and now the new commuter rail train station. As a great bonus, we even got some awesome aerial shots from Shawn Murry of CloudBase Aerial Imaging. The next time we cover the Union Station redevelopment will be when the historic station opens on July 12th. We’ll see you then!


Denver Union Station: Transit Center Grand Opening Part 3

Today, for the third part of our grand opening coverage, we are going to head to the front of the station to take a look at the progress being made at Wynkoop Plaza. On DenverInfill, the last time we covered Wynkoop Plaza was back in September, when the granite pavers were not even in place yet. A lot has changed in eight months!

The passageway between the commuter rail train hall and Wynkoop Plaza is now open. On the South Wing building, there are two patio spaces along this passageway along with a patio space on the plaza itself. The patio with the red umbrellas belongs to the Thirsty Lion and the other patio, that is currently empty, is for a future tenant who should be occupying the space within the next few months.

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The fountain portion of the plaza is not yet complete but has made some great progress. Granite pavers are now in place and the entire fountain system has been capped. This portion of the plaza will be complete when the historic station opens on July 12th.

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The north side of Wynkoop Plaza is in a similar situation. The portion in front of the North Wing building is complete and work is wrapping up in front of the historic station.

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Later this week, we will be looking at the two wing buildings exclusively so you will be able to see, in more detail, how the buildings interact with the plaza. We still have more grand opening coverage coming your way; up next: a unique perspective of the grand opening ceremonies!


Denver Union Station: Transit Center Grand Opening Part 2

For the second part of our grand opening coverage, we are heading underground to the new bus terminal! The 980-foot-long concourse is incredible and is leaps and bounds ahead of Market Street Station, which spans 366 feet. Bus service in the new 22-bay facility will begin on May 11; however, the grand opening ceremony allowed the public to see it all for the first time! In case you missed it, make sure you check out part 1 of our grand opening coverage!

First let’s start off with the two pavilions; Chestnut Pavilion and Wewatta Pavilion are essentially identical minus an announcement screen at the Chestnut Pavilion. There are ascending and descending escalators on the sides with a central staircase. Elevators are accessed at the entrance of each pavilion; which are behind us in each photo.

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Down we go! The look and feel of the bus concourse is incredible. Here in Denver, we are used to dark, brutalist-style bus stations; this terminal sheds a whole new light on Denver’s bus transit.

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The signage is clear, and easy to read. There is a ticket/information counter in the center of the concourse and a self-serve map station towards the Platform 4 staircase. Even though it was a cloudy day, the skylights still provided a pretty good amount of natural light throughout the station.

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Speaking of Platform 4, there are many ways to enter this terminal besides the pavilions and at Union Station. Right in the middle of the commuter rail train hall, at Platform 4 and Platform 2, there are staircases and elevators to access Amtrak or future commuter rail trains.

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One very noticeable thing about the new terminal is that there is a lot of open space and an ample supply of seating. What matters the most out of all this is that it’s very comfortable.

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On the outside of the concourse, the bus turnaround loop is very friendly to riders. There are arrows and bulb outs on each bay assisting boarders.

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Service to this station starts on May 11, terminating all service at Market Street Station. If you are a frequent bus rider, make sure you head over to RTD’s website and plan accordingly! Coming up next, we will be looking at Wynkoop Plaza at the front of the historic station!


Denver Union Station: Transit Center Grand Opening Part 1

Today was great day for Downtown Denver; after more than four years since the groundbreaking, the Denver Union Station Transit Center has finally opened! As Ken outlined in the Grand Opening Preview post, DenverInfill and DenverUrbanism have around 200 posts on this project, and has led 50 walking tours since its groundbreaking. Needless to say, it brought us great joy to attend and photograph this great ceremony. For part one of our grand opening coverage, we are going to be looking at the festivities around the 17th Street Promenade.

The skies may have been cloudy, but that did not stop people coming down to Union Station to celebrate! Thousands of people from all around Denver came down to hear words from Colorado senators, the U.S Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, RTD, DUSPA, Kiewit, and Governor Hickenlooper. Following their speeches, the ribbon was cut and the Denver Union Station Transit Center was officially open!

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Along Wewatta Street, there was a free Metro Ride bus for everyone to tour!

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Here are some interior shots of the bus. It looks and feels like an updated version of the articulated bus fleet RTD currently uses.

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Thanks to David Zucker of Zocalo Community Development, we were able to get up to the top floor of Cadence to check out the festivities from above! This was a great treat to an already great day!

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If you weren’t able to check out Union Station today, fear not, it is now open and you can visit it anytime! Bus service will begin on May 11th where all service to Market Street Station will terminate and be moved to the new bus facility at Union Station. Coming up, we will be looking at the underground bus facility, Wynkoop and IMA Plaza, and under the new Commuter Rail Train Hall. Stay tuned!


West Colfax: April 2014 Construction Update

If you happen to take a walk between Sloans Lake Park and Federal Boulevard, you’re going to see and hear a ton of construction going on. I’ve previously reported on three projects in the area, but thought I’d give you a mini tour of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood while updating you on those three projects. First the map:

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All of the parcels I’ve highlighted here are in some state of construction. The parcels outlined in red are mixed use developments that are underway: The St Anthony’s Hospital Redevelopment (#1) and Mile-High Vista (#5). The orange parcels are all townhome developments; thirteen projects averaging 6-8 units with. I’ll update you on the Framework project (#2) that I wrote about in an earlier post and show some pictures of the radical changes happening on 17th Ave (#3). Finally, there’s a bit of an unknown, the site at Federal and 16th avenue (#4) has recently been scraped in preparation for sale.

Project #1 – St Anthony’s Redevelopment (see my orignial post)

There currently isn’t much in the way of building happening at the old hospital site, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation going on. All the buildings that are to be taken down have been demolished (minus an old maintenance building on 17th Avenue being used for a construction office) and the site is currently being regraded. Cameron Bertram of EFG, the owner’s representative, says that by mid-summer we should see utility work well underway and by fall the new city streets will be put in place. EFG currently has four of seven blocks under contract and is nearly ready to close on another. The Kuhlman Block Alliance will be developing the northeastern-most corner with a boutique hotel in the existing Kuhlman Building, restaurants, retail and apartments. Trammell Crow Residential will be developing two interior blocks with nearly 370 apartments. Finally, Littleton Capital Partners will be developing a retail anchor on the southern-most block facing Colfax. This block will contain a renovated 4-story office building, a retail pad, and a 12-screen Alamo Drafthouse Cinema as the anchor tenant. Here’s a rendering of the cinema block from Colfax and Raleigh Street taken from EFG’s website www.sloansdenver.com.

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Project #2 - Framework at Sloans Lake (see my original post)

Over at Framework, there is much work underway. The first phase is mostly framed and the developer has informed me that he will be breaking ground the second phase very soon as the first phase is already completely pre-sold. Here’s a shot of the first building (along 18th avenue).

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The three-story buildings are strikingly noticeable among the primarily 1- and 2-story single family homes in the area, and given their location at the top of a small hill, can be seen rising up from the neighborhood from Sloans Lake Park two blocks away. This project was the first townhome development in the area, and has since spawned a flurry of construction on neighboring blocks; thirteen townhome projects are now underway in the immediate vicinity.

Project #3 - 17th Avenue

A radical change is occurring on the north side of 17th Avenue where five adjacent lots are in varying stages of construction by five different developers. What was once a 1- and 2-story single family street is rapidly getting an urban makeover.

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Project #4 – A high profile site gets scraped.

On the triangular site overlooking the Federal Boulevard/Colfax interchange once stood a small institutional building. Recently, the owner scraped the building in order to better sell the property. The remainder of this 2+ acre site is covered with an asphalt parking lot, with spectacular views of Mile High Stadium, Downtown and Southeast Denver (not that the asphalt cares much). I personally hope someone snatched up this gem of a property and turns it into something worthy of this extremely prominent site. Here’s a panorama of the site taken from Grove Street.

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Project #5 - Mile High Vista (see my original post)

Last, but not least, is the Mile High Vista Project.  As you can see in the pictures below, the 7 story workforce housing component of the development has topped out and is being skinned and finished. Five stories of housing sit atop a two story podium of parking, resident amenities, and office space. The building is slated to receive a LEED Platinum rating, which is highly commendable for an affordable housing project.

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In front of the apartment building (anchoring the corner of Colfax and Irving) is a two-story steel frame building that is to become a brand new 25,000 sq.ft. Denver Public Library branch. Construction of the branch had been delayed for some time due to some soil issues, but after a redesign of the foundation they are now making significant progress and hope to open next year.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the neighborhood; as you can see, it’s rife with construction activity, redevelopment and densification. Check it out and stay tuned.


New West Colfax Project: Mile High Vista

By Chad Reischl

In the 1960s, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (along with CDOT) cleared a large swath of land in what is today the West Colfax and Sun Valley Neighborhoods of Denver in order to clear what was perceived to be a slum and build the Colfax and Federal interchange. The neighborhood, which had once been a thriving Jewish neighborhood with houses and shops (Golda Meir once resided in the neighborhood; her house was saved and moved to the Auraria Campus) was replaced with a giant cloverleaf intersection, a new housing development (with 8-story towers and smaller townhomes) and a grocery store-anchored strip mall with a gas station. As the neighborhood surrounding this new shopping center continued to decline over the next few decades, the grocery store closed and sat empty for years, only recently partially filled with a new Hispanic grocer. The gas station on the corner of Colfax and Irving closed as well and was eventually torn down, leaving a two-acre lot (half paved/half gravel) that was rarely used except during Denver Bronco games. Now, like many other parking lots and vacant parcels in Central Denver, this lot is getting redeveloped. And, unlike its previous incarnation, this site is coming back to life as a mixed-use, transit oriented, urban development.

Spurred by rising real estate prices and renewed interest in the area due to construction of RTD’s West Line, the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) moved to purchase this two-acre parking lot from the owner of the shopping center in early 2011 in order to create a transit-oriented development. The parcel, outlined in orange in the Google Earth map below, is situated less than one-half mile from two light rail stations and is accessible by four major bus routes. It is also highly visible from both Colfax and Federal and has great views over Sports Authority Field and Downtown Denver. Given the development potential, the owner was reluctant to sell the property, but ULC brought an interesting partner to the table that ultimately sealed the deal: the Denver Public Library.

At the time, DPL was looking for a site to build a new bond-funded branch in the West Colfax Area. The library wasn’t having much luck finding an appropriate site until ULC suggested putting the library on their prized site (alongside additional commercial and retail development). The property owner loved the idea and stipulated that he would sell the land only if DPL would build its branch there. The Library Board eventually agreed and the property was bought by ULC using money from the Denver Transit Oriented Development Fund.

As shown in the two images below (courtesy of ULC and Studiotrope Design Collective), the site will contain three elements: the new branch library anchoring the corner of Colfax and Irving, a 6-story residential building to the south, and a 2-3 story commercial building also on Colfax. A parking lot for the library and commercial pad occupies the center of the property.

 

The library, designed by Studiotrope Design Collective (rendering below courtesy of DPL) will be named in honor of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, an influential Hispanic civil rights leader in the Denver Community. The 25,000 square foot library will be a two-story facility with a modern façade that is intended to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood. As you can see in site phot, construction of the foundation for the library has just begun.

 

The 6-story residential building is being developed by the Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corp. The building, designed by Studio Completiva, is also under construction (renderings below courtesy of Studio Completiva). This building will have some ground-floor commercial space including a day-care facility. Parking will occupy part of the ground floor and continue on Level 2. Above will be four stories (72 units) of affordable workforce housing.

As of today, no distinct plans have been made for the third component of this development, but with construction underway on the two other components, it shouldn’t be long before plans are unveiled. With 72 units of new housing, a public library, and a commercial/retail building, the site is shaping up to be an exciting, dense, urban development that will be a new gateway for the West Colfax Neighborhood and a catalyst for more development in this up-and-coming area west of Downtown Denver. Stay tuned for more postings as this exciting project continues.

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Chad Reischl is an aspiring urban planner with a background in architecture and landscape design.  He has a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from UC-Denver with an emphasis in urban place making and economic development.  Chad is currently a resident of the West Colfax Neighborhood of Denver and is co-president of the West Colfax Association of Neighbors (WeCAN).  He is dedicated to creating sustainable, healthy, and well connected urban communities for future generations to enjoy.


Inside the Infill: Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center (Final)

It’s time to conclude our coverage of the development of the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center with this special Inside the Infill post.

The roots of this project go back to the early 2000s. This post from 2007 references a 2005 newspaper article about building a replacement for the undersized and out-of-date Colorado State Judicial Building. This post from early 2010 gives us a first glimpse of the project’s design, and that the new home to the state’s highest courts would be named after Colorado’s heroic governor during WWII, Ralph Carr, who fiercely opposed the internment of Japanese-Americans. Over the past six years, we’ve featured over 20 posts about this project, including the demolition and implosion of the former judicial building that once stood on the site. State court employees have now moved in, and the building opens for business to the public tomorrow. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held in January, and an official dedication of the building in May.

Let’s wrap things up with some photos of the completed interior. Ryan and I each had a chance last week to tour the new judicial center, so the photos below represent contributions from both of us. There are three courtrooms in the complex: two for the Colorado Court of Appeals (first and third levels) and one for the Colorado Supreme Court (fourth level). Here’s a shot (left) of the entrance to the larger Court of Appeals courtroom on the first floor featuring white marble (from Marble, Colorado), and a photo (right) of the inside of the smaller Court of Appeals courtroom on the third floor, which feels more intimate with lots of rich wood accents:

 

The Supreme Court courtroom on the fourth level of the courthouse portion of the project is stunning. Here are two images. On the left is the bench where the seven justices will sit. On the right, is the glass-domed ceiling that floods the courtroom with natural light:

 

Hints of Colorado symbols and icons are integrated throughout the building’s design. The Colorado flag’s big block “C” is subtly evident as a decorative detail in wood trim found throughout the building (left) and the columbine, our state flower, can been seen (right) in numerous carpet patterns through the building (OK, I really need to polish my shoes!):

 

The most dramatic space in the project is the grand atrium, a voluminous public space topped by a glass rotunda that serves as the central orienting feature to the courthouse. Speaking of Colorado symbols, the floor of the grand atrium features a huge columbine design (left) and, if you stand in the middle of that columbine and look straight up at the rotunda at just the right angle, you see another big Colorado “C” (right):

 

From the upper levels of the courthouse, the view out the glass-walled grand atrium looks directly at the Colorado State Capitol, currently undergoing a major renovation (left). In the courthouse’s main staircase, a dramatic piece of public art celebrates different milestones in Colorado’s history (right):

 

The courthouse includes the Colorado State Law Library, which features a mix of traditional library shelving, public art, and high-tech digital capabilities (left). On the right is a view of the chambers of a Supreme Court justice:

 

On the south side of the block rises the 12-story office tower portion of the project, which houses the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and other legal offices and agencies of the state. Here’s a photo of the main hallway leading from the courthouse to the office tower (left) and the ceiling and public art inside the atrium/reception area of the office tower lobby:

 

The new Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center is beautiful on the inside and outside, and it appropriately represents one of the three branches of state government in a dignified and civic manner. Additionally, the new Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center offers fantastic views of Downtown Denver! So, here are four bonus photos for your enjoyment. On the left, the view straight north up Broadway, and on the right, the view of the Denver City & County Building and Civic Center Park:

 

Finally, here’s a great view of the Denver Central Public Library and the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building (left), and a sweet shot of the Denver Art Museum’s Ponti tower, the Denver Justice Center, Mile High Stadium, North Table Mountain, and the Rockies beyond (right):

 

Welcome, Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center, to Downtown Denver!