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Denver Union Station Renovation

Time for a DenverUrbanism exclusive look inside the historic Denver Union Station’s transformation from a sleepy train station into a luxury hotel. RTD has partnered with Union Station Alliance to transform one of Denver’s most historic structures into a 112-room hotel. Union Station Alliance is a partnership of Urban Neighborhoods (of Dana Crawford fame), Sage Hospitality (Oxford Hotel), and Milender White Construction, among many others. Thanks to RTD and JG Johnson Architects, we have an exclusive look.

If you’ve been down near Union Station anytime within the last few months, it’s hard to miss the scaffolding. There is a TON of work going on at 17th and Wynkoop Streets, but with the notable exception of the massive scaffolding collection, a lot of the work remains hidden inside. 

  

The canopy that surrounds much of the LoDo-front of Union Station will be maintained and restored, as evidenced in the pictures below. There will be patio space surrounding the building – nearly 20 feet worth. The canopy will have glass installed to allow some light through, but protect us from the elements. The nice part about the building being reinvented as a hotel is that crews will always be hand to make sure the canopy is clean and looking it’s best.

 

The main train hall room, formerly adorned with long wooden benches and steam heat, is completely filled with scaffolding. Crews are working to restore and refinish the walls to their former glory and will also be installing new light fixtures (replacing the absolutely abhorrent fluorescent lights that were there before) while maintaining the historic elements that graced the hall. The main hall will be a public space serving as a mixing bowl between hotel guests and outside visitors alike. Hotel check in will be on the second floor.

 

  

The hall was notoriously echo-filled and acoustically displeasing.  Crews are working to place noise dampeners along the ceiling to help reduce the echos that used to flow throughout the space. As you can see in the pictures below, the pink is a primer applied to the walls prior to the sound dampening panels, which are a grayish-tan color.

 

Just off the main train hall in what used to be the ticket office, crews are working to transform the space into what could be known as “The Terminal Room,” serving as a bar for hotel and downtown visitors alike. The Terminal Room was the name of a bar that was at Union Station during the railroad’s hay days – the name is a perfect shout-out to the building’s storied past.  The space is fairly skinny but runs the length of the train hall. It should make for a very cool bar and fit right in down in LoDo.

 

For the historic preservation advocates reading this, take comfort in the fact that it seems that Union Station Alliance and RTD have taken every effort to protect the historic elements within the building. From columns and staircase railings to arch detail and crown moldings, historic elements present before the renovation will still adorn the historic structure after completion.

 

  

 

A casualty of modern building and safety codes are staircases such as those inside Denver Union Station that lead to the upper floors. Don’t fret – they’re not being removed or modified in any significant way, but there are other staircases being constructed that meet fire safety standards. To construct a stairwell in an existing structure is difficult, as you could probably imagine. There’s a lot of demolition and reconstruction as they are constructed. 

  

Denver Union Station has very ornate historic staircases leading to the upper floors. Luckily, these staircases aren’t going anywhere. They have been identified as historic elements so they are being preserved. As you can see in the pictures, crews are making every effort to ensure they make it through the renovation with no accidental damage.

 

 

As I mentioned before, the hotel will have 112 rooms, 90 of which will be unique sizes (yes, 90 – that wasn’t a typo). Only 22 of the rooms will have a twin somewhere else in the building. Even the attic of Denver Union Station is being converted in hotel rooms. Not many have been up here before and you can see why in the pictures below. There are awkward roof lines and little ventilation. This will change as a few additional dormers are added to the building as the hotel rooms are constructed. The attic will host some of the larger rooms in the hotel as rooms will be longer to make sure that every room has a window, as required by code. Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do before that happens, but construction is well under way. The large, angled beams will be integrated into the hotel rooms, serving as a nod to the building’s historic past. 

 

 

 

For those who have been in the basement at Denver Union Station may remember a space that looks very different than it does today. What used to be the home of the model railroad exhibit is being transformed into conference space and home to other essential hotel functions. Additionally, Amtrak will have administrative space in the basement. A lot of work has gone into shoring up the foundations down here as well. Crews have been busy installing reinforcing concrete and large steel beams to help support the structure above. A lot of excavation work has occurred as well to help clear the space, even turning up the bones of what Union Station Alliance believe was a horse – and no, they have no idea how that got down there.

  

   

   

Retail is included as part of the Denver Union Station renovations. As announced by Larimer Associates in May, Denver favorites Snooze and The Kitchen will be opening locations at Denver Union Station in addition to a restaurant and market concept by Alex Seidel. These will be located on the ground floors of the north and south wings. Construction of the retail spaces has opened up the wing buildings into very large and inviting spaces. The posts lining the center of the room will remain as well.

 

 

Construction will continue through the fall as rooms are constructed and the Union Station Hotel will open in the summer of 2014!

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18 Comments

  1. cgleiss says:

    Looks like a lot of work! Too bad they eliminated the historic benches and model railroads!

  2. Paul says:

    I realize that it was necessary to move the model railroads due to unforeseen issues with construction. But can anyone honestly tell me that at least one of the railroads couldn’t be relocated back into the basement? I can’t imagine that a lot of groups are going to be clamoring for a basement conference space to rent.

    Union Station Alliance should be commended for the work to preserve the architectural historical aspects in Union Station, but should be criticized for the way the trains exhibits were handled.

    • Nathanael says:

      The eviction of the model railroads is news to me. Kicking out the model railroads permanently is no good, and actually a contract violation IIRC — really sad. Pathetic.

      • Nathanael says:

        Apparrently RTD didn’t write it into the contract.

        This raises the question of what other promises the “Union Station Allilance” will break. This is all stuff they knew about in advance, nothing “unanticipated”, so this seems to be a case of deliberately defrauding the public. Not good.

        • Nathanael says:

          The RTD letter says:

          “it’s been brought to our attention that there doesn’t appear to be enough space following construction for either to return and feasibly operate as you both do now.”

          The idea that this could be a surprise does not pass the laugh test. How can they have failed to measure square footage correctly?!?

        • Ken Schroeppel says:

          Absolutely not true. I’ve spoken with members from Union Station Alliance and they are not happy that the model railroad club had to go. There were technical issues with new utilities and equipment in the basement that prohibited the club from staying.

          • Nathanael says:

            Yeah? WHAT technical issues? “Technical issues” is not a magic answer.

            I’ve done enough work of this sort that I simply do not believe such claims unless details are provided.

            Best case, the original architects employed by Union Station Alliance were incompetents who did not do their research before they started work.

            If there were actual legitimate technical reasons why the entire layout of the basement utilities had to be completely rearranged, this is the sort of thing which should have been spotted before construction started. Perhaps it’s excusable if gravity-fed sewer lines were, say, five feet higher up than expected. I can’t think of any other possible excuse.

          • Nathanael says:

            Now, I can see the model railroads having to leave temporarily during construction, but there really isn’t anything short of a mis-located gravity sewer which should cause them to be kicked out *permanently*.

          • Paul says:

            Ken,

            The way I understand it is that one of the clubs (the HO one) had to permanently relocate while the other one (the O one) had to move out but that the Union Station Alliance would like to see if they can move them back in after the renovations are complete. Can you provide some insight as to whether or not we can realistically expect this club to come back to Union Station?

  3. Rob says:

    Thanks for the inside look! I can’t wait for it to be done.

  4. Joe says:

    Great update, thanks for your hard work and unique reporting. I was on Wynkoop several weeks ago and saw the wing buildings taking shape, was curious how the interior was progressing. What a beautiful structure. I wish they would bring back the Mizpah archway.

  5. Rob C says:

    I hope someone will do a piece on The Source that is currently under construction in Brighton!!!

  6. John R says:

    What made the old staircases “no up to code”? How are the new ones better?

    • Ryan Mulligan says:

      Safety requirements – the old staircases didn’t meet requirements related to fire protection, hence, why encased stairwells are being constructed.

  7. Dan says:

    Thanks for the inside look at the renovations. I’m looking forward to the opening and can’t wait to jump on the California Zephyr (from San Francisco) and make my way back to my home town. The thought of hopping off the train and taking a 30 second stroll to the hotel is just awesome!!!!

  8. Michael Root says:

    It is with great sadness i read the plans for the central area of the old union station. It appears we are headed for another cookie cutter boutique hotel. The central area with its benches was my favorite spot for a quiet meditation in the down town area. The city of denver has lost a truly unique spot to the ravages of capitalism. I shall never set foot in the hotel to avoid the pangs of sadness of beautiful things lost.