Union Station Grand Reopening!

Photo taken by Ellen Jaskol

On July 12th, 2014, after being closed to the public for a year and a half, the Great Hall at Denver Union Station will once again be bustling. This huge undertaking, a $54 million project, has been slowly progressing for four years—and has been in planning for far longer. The result is a massive investment in one of down town Denver’s most underutilized neighborhood. Gone are the acres of disused rail road tracks—replaced with $ 1 billion in private and public investment surrounding a $500 million multi-modal transit hub. Denver Union Station itself will sport 22,000 square feet for retail space, and be home to Colorado companies like the Tattered Cover, Snooze, The Kitchen [Next Door], Bloom, and Little Man Ice Cream. It will also pay tribute to its years as ‘Denver’s Living Room’ with 12,000 square feet of public space in the Great Hall and an enormous public plaza, replete with water fountain, trees, and benches. As Denver preservationist and developer Dana Crawford put it, the renovation of Union Station “seeks to re-create that sense of a grand public space not only meeting the needs of thousands of commuters passing through but being a destination in its own right.”

It pays homage to its original concept in another way—concentrating many different transportation options into one highly efficient space. Just our city leaders collaborated to bring the railroad to Denver in the 1870s (to great economic advantage), so do did the investors, developers, and elected officials of modern Denver collaborate to make the Union Station project a successful unification of many modes of transportation. Once again, Union Station is a transit hub, this time bringing together trains, buses, light rail, allowing commuters to travel all over the city and the state.

Historic Denver got to play a special role in the preservation of the historic Union Station: In February 2014, we were awarded a grant from the State Historical Fund of Colorado to restore the canopy in the front of the building. This iconic wrought iron canopy had suffered from years of neglect, and well intentioned ‘improvements’, including fiberglass panels replacing the original clear glass panels. In addition, several of the tin embellishments were damaged and needed repair. Now, just in time for the grand opening of the station, the canopy has received a number of replicated tin moldings, new frosted glass panels (to cut down on maintenance costs), and a new coat of paint. Historic Denver is proud to be a part of this project to restore such a unique piece of Denver’s history.

The Denver Union Station project is a great example of how historic preservation can be the catalyst for new development throughout cities across America. Union Station started as a convergence point for transportation, retail, commerce, and housing. It required a huge amount of coordination on the part of city, state, and federal agencies, as well as a number of private developers. The result ripples out through the neighborhood, encouraging new development throughout 9 square blocks of a formally derelict area of Denver. Now previously empty lots and surface parking lots boast apartments and retail space, providing amenities for local residents, housing for the steady stream of incoming Millennials, and highly visible investment in one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.

So here’s a hearty “Welcome Back!” to Union Station! We hope the next century is as fruitful as the last.