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New Union Station Project: Union Tower West

Atlanta-based Portman Holdings is planning a $100 million mixed-use project in Downtown Denver’s Union Station district.

Portman’s proposed hotel and office development at the corner of 18th and Wewatta was announced this summer, but details and renderings of the project at that time were very limited, so DenverInfill waited until more information was available. Fortunately, that time has come.

Let’s begin by getting you oriented geographically. The project—known as Union Tower West—will share the block bounded by 18th, Wewatta, 19th, and Chestnut with the proposed 1975 18th Street housing project and Xcel Energy’s Denver Steam Plant. Below is a GoogleEarth aerial with the site outlined in yellow:

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For a bird’s-eye view of the site, this drone-tastic image by Ryan Dravitz will do the trick:

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The Union Tower West development includes a 180-room hotel and approximately 100,000 square feet of office space. The project also includes 216 parking spaces and a pedestrian plaza facing the 18th and Wewatta corner. All of the following images are courtesy of John Portman & Associates architects:

Here’s a preliminary concept rendering of project showing the main entry at the corner of 18th and Wewatta and the tower rising above:

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The project’s different components are stacked vertically. The ground floor contains the office and hotel lobbies and meeting/dining spaces. Floors 2 through 4 are the parking levels (including bicycle parking and electric-car charging stations). Floors 5 through 8 feature the hotel rooms, and Floors 9 through 12 contain the office space. Here are two images that help illustrate the building program. The first shows a cutaway slice through the building parallel with 18th Street, and the second in a stacking diagram that shows the project’s four major components vertically:

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According to a recent press release, Portman is hoping to break ground on Union Tower West by the end of 2014.

Special Bonus: Did you know that Xcel Energy’s downtown Denver steam system is the oldest continuously operated commercial district heating system in the world? It’s true!

The original steam plant at the corner of 19th and Wewatta (official address is 1875 Delgany Street) was built by the Denver City Steam Heating Company and began providing steam heat through underground pipes to downtown customers in 1880 (Denver was just 22 years old at the time!). The plant was entirely rebuilt in 1972, which is the gold-colored building you see there today. The Denver Steam Plant is the hub for a network of over 16 miles of underground steam pipes that service over 130 customers in the downtown Denver area including many of downtown’s largest office buildings and major cultural, government, and civic facilities. Needless to say, Xcel has no plans to relocate the Denver Steam Plant, and its continued presence in the booming Union Station area gives us a small but important reminder of the Central Platte Valley’s industrial heritage. For more information about the Denver Steam Plant, below are links to two documents I stumbled across on the internet from which I gleaned the above information:

Denver’s 128-Year-Old Steam System: The Best is Yet to Come, by the International District Energy Association, District Energy, Fourth Quarter 2008 (a general news article about the downtown Denver steam system).

Engineering Assessment – Denver District Steam System, by Public Service Company of Colorado Engineering and Construction, March 2013 (a technical report that includes a variety of historical, engineering, and financial information about the steam system).


Speer: Speer Boulevard Apartments Update #1

As I mentioned in our previous post, a low elevation aerial point of view gives us the ability to really see how much impact a project is going to have on a particular site, in real time. For today’s update for the Speer Boulevard Apartments, we are going to take a look at the site from above.

The Speer Boulevard Apartments site has been buzzing with activity over the past few weeks. Excavation for the project is complete and a tower crane is now up at the site. Our announcement post on this project covered some very vague details and while there are no official renderings of the building, we do have some information. The Speer Boulevard Apartments will rise a total of six stories over 305 parking spaces and will provide the neighborhood with 221 apartment units. Here is an aerial with the project site outlined.

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The construction timeline is still unknown however, we suspect this project will be complete around late Fall 2015.


Golden Triangle: EnV Update #1

It’s hard to believe that we have not posted an update on EnV yet, minus featuring it in the Spring 2014: Downtown Denver Hole-in-the-Ground Census. However, I have a special post to kick off EnV’s first update.

Recently, I have expanded my horizons with photography and decided to take to the skies. Shawn Murry of CloudBase Aerial Imaging was our go-to for aerial perspectives and he has provided us some fantastic photos in the past. We will continue partnering with Shawn and look forward to many more great photos. Not to mention, Shawn has much bigger cameras in the air! Having two eyes in the sky allows us to provide aerial photos more frequently, which is never a bad thing!

Now onto EnV. Since the spring, the building has gone up eight stories and is really starting to have a presence in the Golden Triangle neighborhood. EnV will rise a total of 18-stories, meaning what you see today is just under half the total height. The structure will be concrete with a glass facade. Here are four perspectives of EnV from the air.

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As I have been out practicing and flying around for fun, it is truly amazing what you can capture from a higher prospective. Here are two bonus photos from some recent flights.

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EnV still has a long journey ahead but we will be keeping a closer eye on it as it is now rising at a quick pace.


Central Downtown: 1401 Lawrence Update #3

There was good news on September 25th when we announced the groundbreaking of 1401 Lawrence. The 22-story, 298,000 square foot office tower will eventually make its mark on the Denver skyline but, as with all new projects, there is a long journey ahead.

Demolishing the old sales center, used for the original 1401 Lawrence condo tower proposal, was the first thing on the to-do list. The building has already been torn down and as of today, the asphalt for the parking lot has also been taken out. Here are some pictures of the site from a week ago.

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All of the parking for 1401 Lawrence is above ground meaning this project will quickly rise above the street level! We will check back in a few weeks when this project is in the hole-in-the-ground phase.


Downtown Denver: Aloft Denver City Center Update #4 (Inside the Infill Edition)

At the intersection of 15th and Stout Street sat an old abandoned fast food restaurant that destroyed the pedestrian experience on a street already riddled with parking lots and not-so-pedestrian-friendly buildings. But, over the past year, that intersection has dramatically changed, featuring a six-story hotel that is nearing completion.

Before we go take a look on the interior of the building, here is a recent shot of the exterior. On our next and final update of this project, we will go down to the street level and look at the building in more detail.

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Thanks to Damon Balcerak of Martines Palmeiro Construction (MPC), I was able to get an exclusive inside look at the progress being made! Everything is starting to shape up from the flooring to the walls.

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The rooms are even more complete with all of the essential furniture pieces in place. Room accessories and mattresses will start to get installed over the next couple of weeks.

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The aLoft Hotel features a basement, which houses the main amenities and back of the house operations. Here are some pictures of the soon to be complete pool and fitness room. The common areas of the hotel will all share an industrial look, with exposed beams and pipes throughout the building.

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Given the small plot of land the aLoft sits on, the main lobby has a surprisingly open feel to it. There will be a porte-cochère entrance, mid block on Stout Street, and another entrance along 15th Street. The lobby will also include a state of the art bar, which we will cover more in depth with our final update. Here it is under construction.

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The aLoft Denver City Center has an expected opening date of November 20th. We will check back in around then for our final update. Stay tuned!


Lower Downtown: 16M Final Update

Since the announcement of 16M back in April 2012, everyone rejoiced that the old Office Depot building at 1350 16th Street was going to be demolished and something much better was going to stand in its place. Now that the fences are down, and 16M has been mixed into Downtown Denver’s urban fabric, the intersection of the 16th Street Mall and Market Street has a new breath of life. Before we get to the pictures, make sure you visit our previous updates of 16M.

New Lower Downtown Project: 1350 16th Street

Demolition Begins for 16th & Market Project

Lower Downtown: 16M Update #1

Lower Downtown: 16M Update #2

Lower Downtown: 16M Update #3

Lower Downtown: 16M Update #4

Summer 2013: Downtown Denver Hole-in-the-Ground Census

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Lower Downtown: 16M Update #7

Time to take a look at the completed building. Designed by Gensler, 16M rises a total of 10 stories and provides the Lower Downtown District with 115,000 square feet of office space, 13,000 square feet of retail, and 47 residential apartment units. Here are two views of the building looking down the 16th Street Mall towards Union Station.

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16M shares a similar design with its neighbor down the block, SugarCube. The first six floors are dedicated to retail and office space and floors seven through ten, set back from the office portion, are dedicated to the residential units.

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The street level, where the pedestrians interact with the city, is the most important part of any project. 16M hit it out of the park, with a tucked away garage ramp, attractive office entrance, and ample ground-floor retail.

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If you ask for my opinion about the ground-floor treatment, I would say this is infinitely better than walking along the blank wall of an Office Depot with a single entrance on the 16th Street Mall!

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The presence, look, and feel of 16M is outstanding. It’s a very attractive building with brick and glass throughout the entire facade and it has the most important feature every urban building should have: an amazing street presence. Welcome to Lower Downtown, 16M! We are glad to have you!


Cherry Creek: 100 Saint Paul Update #3

Today I have a quick update for you on the 149,000 square foot office building going up at East First Avenue and Saint Paul Street. Since our update in May, this project has gone from a large hole in the ground to a climbing steel structure that has now risen five-stories. 100 Saint Paul will top out at a total of 8-stories.

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That’s it for this round of Cherry Creek updates! Next week we will head back to Downtown Denver and look at all of the great infill going up there!


Cherry Creek: Steele Creek Apartments Update #3

When the Cherry Creek boom took off early last year, the Steele Creek Apartments project was the first large scale building to get off the ground. Since then, the 12-story, 250-unit building has topped out and is starting to shape up.

Here is both a street level perspective, taken from First Avenue and Steele Street, and an upper vantage point of the building. The blue glass facade has started to go in along with the brick on the east side of the building. The podium looks a little daunting at the moment however, there will be some treatment for the blank wall, as seen in the rendering.

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The back side of the project was a little more difficult to see in the rendering. The 12-story building is accompanied by an 8-story building along First Avenue which shares the same facade materials as the taller portion of the project.

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As you saw in our last update, Cherry Creek is densely filled with low and mid-rises. In that environment, even a 12-story building has a pretty large impact. Here is the project looking down Steele Street from around Virginia Avenue.

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The Steele Creek Apartments will be complete in March 2015, making it the first large project to wrap up in the Cherry Creek neighborhood during this new wave of development.