DENVER (CBS4)– The Union Station redevelopment in Denver is being watched by transportation developers around the nation and around the world for its contemporary design and emphasis on commuter-friendly transit.
“We’ve had a lot of people from outside the state– from outside the country– look at our facilities to see if they could replicate that here,” said RTD Union Station Project Manager Jerry Nery. “So we’re hoping we can kind of set the stage for a lot of agencies in other places.”
The historic Union Station is iconic in Denver and the renovation from a building with a lot of wasted space to a multimodal hub is considered a major revitalization in LoDo.
Union Station was built at 17th and Wynkoop in 1881. Now it is being transformed from a seemingly vacant at times building into a centralized and bustling centerpiece for all kinds of transportation including bus, light rail, commuter rail and Amtrak.
“This is probably the largest transportation project of a comparable transportation agency when you compare it to Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake, Phoenix, those transit agencies,” said Nery. “What makes this work the best, and I’ve been to almost every one of their Union Stations, is they didn’t have the opportunity to have all of the transits come to one location and have a development opportunity in that same location.”
Union Station’s redesign was planned with commuters and pedestrians in mind.
The intent is to grow to meet the demands of the population as Denver continues to grow. Developers hope the design will have a positive impact on transportation for the region for the next 100 years.
“Right now the activity for commuters and pedestrians, we run about 15,000 people in and out in a day. We anticipate in 2030… is about 200,000 people, 100,000 in and 100,000 out, with all of our lines completed for commuter rail,” said Nery.
The Union Station renovation is about 95 percent finished with the first phase scheduled to open next month.
“We’re going to open up the underground bus facility. The planned celebration is May 9,” said Nery. “We’re ahead of schedule, under budget.”
The new underground bus concourse has 22 gates and will serve 16 bus routes. With that opening the old Market Street Station will close and buses will use Union Station instead.
Next month RTD will also introduce a new Metro Ride program that’s free to riders. Those buses will run during peak hours Monday through Friday from Union Station and the Civic Center Station along 18th and 19th streets.
Another major portion of Union Station is mixed use with space for retail, restaurants and a hotel.
Among the stores moving in are Milkbox Ice Creamery, Pigtrain Coffee, Eatmore Burgers and Brats, and the Tattered Cover Bookstore. It will make the new and improved Union Station much more than a transportation hub. The businesses and the 112-room Crawford Hotel will be open to the public starting July 12.
Some of the rooms are classic hotel rooms, while others are called “loft” rooms and will be decorated with art from Colorado artists, reflecting the state’s history, including the current make up of LoDo.
The Crawford Hotel is named after Dana Crawford, an urban preservationist and a partner in the Union Station redevelopment. She has spearheaded preservation efforts in downtown Denver for more than 30 years.
“The forecast that we originally had was to have about 900,000 square feet of mixed use by 2019. Right now we have over 2 million square feet of mixed use either being designed or under construction,” said Nery.
A planned commuter rail line from Union Station to Denver International Airport will open in 2016, along with the Gold Line to Wheat Ridge and Arvada. Once those are completed construction will begin on other RTD commuter lines.
“We will have the North Metro Line that goes up to Commerce City, Adams County, Thornton, Northglenn that will be in operation in 2018,” said Nery.
Amtrak returned to Union Station in March. The first departure from the redesigned train station took passengers from Denver to San Francisco.
The three-year renovation project cost nearly $500 million.
“This has been a great project. It has taken a lot of partners to do this, not just RTD. We have the City and County of Denver, the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Colorado Department of Transportation, plus all of the developers. We have a master developer, Union Station Neighborhood Company, they’re responsible for attracting a lot of the developers,” said Nery.
There are also modern amenities added to make commuting more comfortable.
The transportation project includes heated concrete to melt ice in the underground terminal and vastly improved acoustics within the station. They call it an “urban living room.”
The renovation also includes a new technology called Positive Train Control, or PTC. PTC will increase safety by stopping a train if it is speeding or going around a curve too fast.
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Produced for cbsdenver.com by Jennifer McRae