Union Station’s Newest Public Space: Tail Tracks Plaza

The last of the new public spaces at Denver Union Station is nearing completion. Known as Tail Tracks Plaza, this new public space fills the gap between the newly completed Triangle Building (recently profiled at DenverInfill in Part 1 and Part 2) and the EPA Region 8 headquarters building. The gap is the old Wewatta Street right-of-way where Wewatta used to run between Delgany and Wynkoop streets before Union Station was built in 1881.

Here’s a Google Earth image from October 2014 with Tail Tracks Plaza’s location outlined in yellow:

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Why is it called Tail Tracks Plaza? Because until the recent transit infrastructure construction, the historic railroad tracks behind the station building merged into a “tail” that crossed 16th and 15th streets and terminated at Cherry Creek. Here’s a Google Earth image from December 2002 showing the tail tracks crossing 16th Street and merging into a singe track that crossed 15th Street. In this image we also see the Gates building under construction and the old Postal Annex building before its demolition.

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The tail tracks were removed in May 2010.

Tail Tracks Plaza is not yet open to the public, but will be soon. As part of my Triangle Building tour, we checked out the plaza where workers were putting in the finishing touches. Here’s a view from roughly the middle of the plaza looking towards 16th Street. The bold stripe of colored pavers commemorate the historic tail tracks:

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The side of the Triangle Building facing the plaza contains a canopy-covered patio space for restaurant outdoor seating. In the past few days since I took this photo, the canopy structure has been painted a dark grey color to match the Triangle Building’s ground-floor granite and steel elements:

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Near the 15th Street end of the plaza are some big swings for kids and adults to enjoy. The swings can fit two people and are destined to become a favorite photo-taking spot for tourists and locals. The swings are supported by railroad tracks that have been curved and welded together for structural strength; a mechanism at the top prevents the swing from swinging so far as to bump into the neighboring swing but still allows a good three to four foot swing motion in both directions.

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Tail Tracks Plaza was designed by Design Workshop. During my tour, a couple of my Design Workshop friends stopped by to check out the swing installation:

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The other major feature of Tail Tracks Plaza that hasn’t been installed yet is the Bike Station at Denver Union Station. For details about the bike station and the services it will offer, check out our blog post from December 2014. It’s being developed by a non-profit group that has been raising funds over the past year or so. Installation of the light station structure, which will sit on top of the plaza’s stone pavers, should begin within the next few months and be open by the time warmer weather returns in 2016.

The bike station will sit near the 16th Street end of the plaza against the short retaining wall on the right in the image below:

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There are the latest renderings, courtesy of East West Partners:

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We will visit Tail Tracks Plaza again in the spring after the Bike Station is open. The plaza itself should be open for public enjoyment later this month.

By | 2016-12-22T17:19:16+00:00 November 6, 2015|Categories: Bicycles, Parks & Public Spaces, Urban Design|Tags: |6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Denver November 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

    […] Union Station’s Last Pedestrian Plaza Nears Completion (DenverUrbanism) […]

  2. Kyle November 7, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Okay, I love everything about this…except how far the bike station sticks out into the plaza. This is a great pedestrian plaza, and it will be the main pathway from Union Station to Elitches, The Pepsi Center, and to parts of Auraria. Why does this take up so much space?

  3. Robert Hayes November 7, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    The tracks didn’t end at Cherry Creek. They continued across the creek on the iron bridge at Wewatta that has been moved a few feet to the east. The D&RG tracks then curved around Wazee Market and over to the Burnam Yards and shop at 8th Avenue and on out to the joint line along Santa Fe. The C&S/Santa Fe tracks continued south to the C&S yards on 7th Street and continued south as they do today.

    • Ken Schroeppel November 7, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      When I said the tail tracks ended at Cherry Creek, I was referring to the recent era since the construction of the Pepsi Center and the new Wewatta Street bridge over Cherry Creek when the tail tracks did end just short of the creek (as they do in the 2002 aerial I included–just off the edge of the image to the left). Historically, however, you are correct in that it was a through line from DUS across the creek and beyond to the south.

  4. Kyle November 10, 2015 at 9:40 am

    (This is a different Kyle from above) I too really like this design. I am curious to how they got away with not having a fall zone and ASTM soft landing at the swings? I am glad they didn’t do all of that but would hate to have something happen because they would immediately be taken down. I also think there should be at least 5-10 more of these bike stations throughout central downtown.

    • Nathanael December 22, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Probably because the swings are intended for adults. The rules for swings for children have become completely idiotic in recent decades due to insurance companies. But for adults… the rules are still OK.

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