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Denver Union Station Update #122

It’s been about six weeks since we last looked at the massive Denver Union Station redevelopment so not a lot has changed. However, in our last update we looked at the project from afar and didn’t really get a closer look at all of the great individual elements. Unfortunately, this isn’t an inside tour but, armed with a great zoom lens and thanks to some great vantage points around Union Station, I was able to get some great close up shots. So you can see more detail, I bumped up the resolution on all these photos. Make sure you click to embiggen!

Let’s start off with the 18th Street pedestrian bridge. This is very similar to the Millennium Bridge when coming from Downtown. The elevator will be situated to the left with a bike track on the side of the stairs so you don’t have to carry your bike over the bridge. On the Union Station side, there are four sets of stairs going down to the commuter rail platforms which will also lead you to Wewatta Street.

 

The metal screen that is going across the bridge isn’t at all intrusive. You will be able to watch the trains under you and still feel out in the open!

 

The north side of Wynkoop Plaza is coming along very nicely. The trees have been planted, the hardscaped benches are starting to get installed, and it looks like it will only be a matter of time before we will start to see the granite pavers go in.

 

Here is an above view of the north side of Wynkoop Plaza.

The south side of the plaza is not as far along as the north side because of a few reasons: The South Wing building started after the North Wing, and since this side of the plaza will have the magnificent fountain feature, a lot more underground work had to be completed first. The fountains however are looking more and more complete!

 

Speaking of the Wing Buildings, they are also starting to come together making a huge difference along Wynkoop Street. The first floor of these buildings will be ground floor retail and 4-stories of office space above. Floors 2 through 4 are covered in brick and the 5th floor has a modern glassy facade. Both buildings have glass curtain walls facing the plazas. Here is the North Wing Building which will be occupied by IMA Financial.

 

And the South Wing Building which will be occupied by Antero Resources.

 

Now let’s head over to the commuter rail train hall. There has been a lot of concern about shelter from the elements when waiting for the train. Fear not! If you look closely you can see each platform will have some kind of shelter. Plus, we have 300 or so days of sunshine a year, we wouldn’t want to be completely enclosed while waiting for the train!

 

Here are a couple more shots of the completed commuter rail canopy. The land towards 16th Street in front of the canopy is part of the L-Shaped ‘A Block’ and will get developed one day so let’s enjoy this great open view of the canopy while it lasts; not saying having it closed in wouldn’t be a great sight as well!

 

Let’s wrap up with a shot of the newly opened Wewatta Street. It isn’t very pedestrian friendly at the moment because of three factors: 21-story, 13-story, and 10-story buildings are all under construction between 16th and 17th Street! Also, if you look closely, you can see the continuation of the 17th Street Gardens in the foreground of the Wewatta Pavilion.

May 9th is the day we will be able to experience the brand new Union Station. 8 months to go!


Denver Union Station Update #121

Good news has recently been delivered by RTD about the opening day for Denver Union Station: May 9th, 2014! While there is still a lot of work to be done, we are finally starting to see everything come together. In this update, we are going to take a look at the redevelopment from Wynkoop Street, Millennium Bridge, and the 18th Street Pedestrian Bridge.

Let’s start with the wing buildings. Over the past couple weeks the tower cranes have been removed from both sites and we can start to get a sense of scale for these buildings. Here’s the North Wing building. A lot of the brick facade has gone up and thanks to the wind moving some plastic coverings around, we can see the glassy portion facing Wynkoop Plaza.

Here is a view of how the North Wing building fits in along with the historic station.

Now that there are no tower cranes in the picture, you can see the South Wing building is very architecturally similar to the North Wing building.

Trees have been planted at Wynkoop Plaza and the plumbing for fountains has started to get filled in. Also, right now is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the entire historic station wrapped in scaffolding!

Here is something I have yet to do with these updates: A panorama of the progress being made behind the station. This first one is off of Millennium Bridge. Here we can see (going left to right) the new lightrail station and plaza, the Alta City House parking structure, Chestnut Pavilion, the new mall shuttle loop, Cadence, the 1650 Wewatta crane, the commuter rail canopy, and the South Wing building. Make sure you click to zoom! Click here for a super high-resolution version!

Here is another view off of the 18th Street pedestrian bridge. There are still a lot of empty parcels that need to be filled in but progress is being made quicker than we expected! Click here for a super-high resolution version!

May 9th is coming up soon! This will be the last summer we will be following the construction of this great 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 #118

We’ve just covered the IMA Financial Center in Update #116 and 1701 16th in Update #117, so let’s take a quick look at what’s in between—the historic Denver Union Station, of course!—plus downtown’s newest public space, Wynkoop Plaza.

Wynkoop Plaza will feature a large water-jet-type public fountain in front of the historic station’s south wing. The infrastructure for the fountain has been under construction for several months:

The north and south wing buildings being set back a bit from the property line will allow Wynkoop Plaza to extend all the way to the corners of 16th and 18th Streets. In the photo below, the plaza area in front of the south wing building is being graded. Plaza construction in front of the historic station’s north wing (which will feature seating and a grove of trees) is further along; the plaza’s concrete base has been poured and holes for the street trees have been cut out:

The historic station, which is getting a full restoration inside and out, will have retail/restaurant spaces and public transit waiting areas on the ground floor and a 110-room hotel on the upper floors. Parts of the historic wings have already been scrubbed clean and repaired, and now the facade of the Great Hall is getting a major makeover:

Let’s end with our double-sized bonus photo. Here’s a once-in-lifetime photo of the iconic facade of Denver Union Station covered in scaffolding:

Coming up… Wewatta Street is open!


Denver Union Station Update #114

Many of you have been down at Denver Union Station for the opening of the W-Line and probably noticed construction keeps on rolling. This is a very exciting time in this whole redevelopment because we are starting to see everything come together.

A month ago, both wing buildings were barely out of the ground. Now, the south wing building has one floor until it tops out while the north wing building has two floors to go.

 

Wynkoop Plaza is also coming along nicely. If you remember Ken’s last Union Station update, these are going to be very impressive fountains which extend the entire length of the south wing of the historic station.

 

On the north side of the canopy structure, the pedestrian bridge has started to take shape. This is the bridge that will be connected to the north wing building giving you access to the commuter rail platforms and the underground bus facility from Wynkoop Street.

 

There are three rail platforms that stop short of the canopy. Construction for these platforms has also started.

 

Between the redevelopment of Denver Union Station and all of the private sector development going on, this is quite the site to see! Head down there to check it out and ride the W-Line if you haven’t yet! Also, make sure to keep checking DenverUrbanism for the next few days for some W-Line greatness!


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.


Denver Union Station Update #105

On Wednesday I had the wonderful opportunity to get an insider’s look at the Denver Union Station project. There will be two parts to this tour; the surface and the underground bus terminal. Today we will be focusing on what’s happening on the surface. I would like to thank Hunter Sydnor of Kiewit for the wonderful tour and the vast amount of information about this development.

One of the very exciting elements of this entire development is the commuter rail canopy. Now that the structure for the bus terminal is nearing completion, as far as the surface is concerned, work on the canopy can begin. What we’re looking at in the photos below are the foundations for the trusses and where the canopy is going to be anchored. The trusses for the canopy are being shipped here and then painted in Denver.

 

Below you will see another set of foundations being set for the trusses of the canopy. Needless to say, this thing is going to be massive. It stretches all the way down to the very north tip of the historic building and almost an entire city block west. I also took a picture of how large the anchors are going to be for these trusses. Impressive!

 

In this picture you can see the bus box is starting to be sealed in. In the next update, we will cover more of the structural elements. Even though this is the second phase of the bus terminal to be built, it is different than the first phase closer to the light rail station due to the future commuter rail tracks above it.

Next up, we have the 17th Street Gardens and pedestrian spaces. 17th Street has been paved up to Wewatta Street and stop lights are beginning to be installed in preparation of Wewatta Street being paved through. Work has also begun on the 17th Street Gardens plaza, one of the premier public spaces in the whole redevelopment. As you can see, pavers are beginning to make their way up towards the station along with the tress and lighting elements. For some great information and basic framework on the 17th Street Gardens head over to Ken’s post here.

 

As a little bonus, I was able to get real close to the Cadence site. I asked if it was easy to get along with the private sector developments since there is a lot of different construction projects around this field. The answer was yes. One of the conditions of having so much going on is the site for Cadence is very crowded. There’s not a lot of room around these parcels because of the Union Station Redevelopment.

On the next post, we will be going underground and looking at how much is coming along in bus box! It seems like every week there’s something new and exciting happening here!


The Confluence: Project Update

The underutilized corner at 15th and Little Raven next to Confluence Park is one of Downtown Denver’s choicest development sites, with an interesting history of proposals dating back over a decade. Today, let’s review some of that history and take a look at what the future holds for the property. First, here’s the site in question (from Bing Maps):

2010-06-20_confluence1

Back in the 1990s when the area was mostly rail yards and warehouses, the Confluence property was zoned PRV (for Platte River Valley). The PRV zone was intended to be a placeholder zone for the valley until new developments would trigger rezonings on a site-by-site basis. In 2001, the property was rezoned to R-MU-30. At that time, development in the CPV was just taking off and residential in the area was still rather untested; plus, an Xcel Energy electrical substation occupied the adjacent parcel at the confluence of the creek and river. So, it was felt that the new R-MU-30 zone, which required a boxy LoDo-style building envelope was the best solution for the site. The resulting structure would have been 90 feet tall, stepping down to 60 feet, and covering the entire site from property line to property line, with facades the length of a football field facing Little Raven in the “front” and facing the electrical substation in the “back”. No project, however, materialized.

In 2007, developer Ray Suppa (who built the Palace Lofts in LoDo and the Waterside Lofts at Wewatta and Cherry Creek) started the process with the city to rezone the site. By 2007, conditions had changed in the Central Platte Valley. Residential development was booming and projects such as the Glass House reflected a trend for taller buildings and higher densities, and the Xcel Energy substation had been replaced with the new Confluence Park Plaza. That rezoning would have allowed a building up to 140 feet in height for a portion of the site. But before the rezoning ever made it to City Council for final consideration, the request was pulled. Mr. Suppa and others felt it was best to step back and take a fresh look at what would be best for the site.

In 2008, Mr. Suppa, Councilwoman Judy Montero, and the Community Planning & Development department decided to ask the Urban Land Institute for its opinion. The ULI convened a Technical Assistance Panel, which I had the honor to chair, to study the Confluence site. Our panel consisted of prominent architects, planners, and developers from both the Denver area as well as from out of state. After much research and interviews with dozens of stakeholders and other urban design experts, the panel concluded that the R-MU-30 zoning was no longer appropriate for the site and recommended that the site’s density be reconfigured into a point tower at Little Raven and the creek, with a shorter structure at the corner of 15th and Little Raven. By shifting the density upward, it also would allow for a good percentage of the site to become open space integrated with Confluence Park Plaza.

In August 2009, after a year of extensive outreach by Mr. Suppa to the CPV neighborhood and the broader Downtown community, the Denver City Council approved a rezoning of the site to PUD (Planned Unit Development). The new PUD zoning reflects the panel’s recommendations and provides for a high-rise up to 350 feet in height at Little Raven and Cherry Creek, and a mid-rise structure (maximum height of 65 feet) at the 15th & Little Raven corner with a form that creates a strong urban edge and identity to the site and connections with the adjacent parks. Brownstone-style residences along Little Raven connect the two buildings. Parking would be accommodated on three underground levels. The mid-rise at the corner would include ground-floor retail and five floors of residential and/or office uses above.  The high-rise would have 32 or 33 floors of residential uses. Overall, the project would contain approximately 385,000 gross square feet. The project will also seek LEED certification.

Courtesy of OZ Architecture, here are a few images. Please note: the buildings have not yet been designed. These images reflect only the form, scale, and orientation of the project under its new PUD zoning. The actual architectural design of the project is yet to come.

Conceptual site plan (left) and conceptual rendering (right):

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Two more images from OZ showing different tower concepts from vantage points nearby:

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In May 2010, the city approved the Design Standards and Guidelines for the project, which articulate to a level of detail not found in the PUD zoning various aspects of the project including building form and orientation, landscaping, ground-floor treatment, etc.

Finally, some of you have no doubt noticed that the existing buildings at the site are being demolished. Actually, not all of the site will be razed at this time. The existing buildings consist of a two-story structure right at the corner of 15th and Little Raven, and a one-story structure closer to the Confluence Park Plaza that stretches all the way back to Cherry Creek.  A portion of the one-story building near Cherry Creek will be retained and made available as two art studio type rental units. This is an interim situation, until such time as the full project moves forward. Which brings me to the question many are probably wondering: when will the tower project get underway? Like everything else these days, the answer is basically: “it depends on the market”.   However, given Mr. Suppa’s track record with successfully building major projects in the Downtown Denver area and the high-profile and attractive nature of the site, I would say that this project is likely to be one we will see happen before too long.

Here are a couple of demolition photos taken Friday by my friend Matt:

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Let’s hope the economy continues its recovery so we can see the Confluence project move forward soon. This is going to be an exciting addition to the Central Platte Valley and Downtown Denver.