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Archive of posts filed under the Parks & Public Spaces category.

The 105th Meridian at Denver Union Station

Back in 2010, I was on Google Earth one day wandering over the planet’s surface—a surefire way for many hours to slip by for geography geeks like me—and had the latitude/longitude grid turned on and noticed that the 105th Meridian West cuts directly through Denver Union Station. In fact, it pretty much runs right through the dead center of the station’s front facade. At that time, my fellow Union Station Advocates board members and I were focused on the preliminary designs for Wynkoop Plaza and so I suggested that we should advocate for a public art project that embeds a line marking the path of the meridian across the plaza. Everyone thought it was a cool concept, but it was too early in the plaza design process and we didn’t get much traction on it, so we let the idea go for the time being.

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The 105th Meridian West cuts across Wynkoop Plaza and Denver Union Station.

Fast forward to spring 2014 and Wynkoop Plaza was nearing its July opening and work was well underway on the plaza’s granite pavers and other features. I reintroduced the idea of the 105th Meridian project to my Union Station Advocates colleagues and this time everything fell into place. After some negotiating with the Union Station project team, the concept was approved. Union Station Advocates kicked in most of the funds for the project, with the Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) covering the balance. Key to the project’s speedy approval was my friend and fellow Union Station Advocates board member Dana Crawford. If you want to get something done, your odds of success are greatly improved if Dana is part of the effort! Bill Mosher from DUSPA and our Union Station Advocates chair Anne Hayes were also very instrumental in making the 105th Meridian project happen.

Over one weekend in October 2014, workers embedded a 1-inch-wide stainless steel strip into the granite pavers. My crazy idea from 2010 had become a reality!

The 105th Meridian West at Denver Union Station is marked by a 1-inch-wide stainless steel strip embedded in Wynkoop Plaza’s granite pavers.

The next issue to work on was the interpretive sign. Virtually no one would know what the line in the plaza represents unless we had some type of sign or marker explaining the situation. After several months of contemplating where the sign should go, what it should look like, how big it should be, etc., we finally settled on a sign to be mounted inside the south entry lobby of the historic station a few steps from where the line crosses in the plaza. I then did a bunch of research, learning more about meridians and time zones than I ever thought I’d know, and wrote the text and developed the graphics for the interpretive sign. My friends and fellow blog contributors Ryan Dravitz and Derek Berardi helped out. Ryan provided the photo and Derek did the graphic design and layout for the sign. Dana Crawford and her team that manage the historic station paid for the interpretive sign and its installation.

The sign was installed in late November.

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Grant Adams (left) and Xavian Lahey (right) from Nine dot Arts help JDP from JDP Art (center) install the 105th Meridian sign inside Denver Union Station.



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Almost finished…



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Done!

The 105th Meridian West may not be as famous as the Prime Meridian at Greenwich or the Four Corners when it comes to imaginary lines you can visit, but it is a fun curiosity and interesting part of Union Station’s history. I hope next time you’re at Denver Union Station you’ll check it out! Here’s a PDF of the interpretive sign if you aren’t able to make it to Union Station to see it in person. The sign includes a full list of people and firms who helped make the project possible. Thank you to all who had a part in the process!

Happy New Year, Denver!


The Future Transformation of Wynkoop and 21st Streets

Wynkoop in LoDo and 21st Street in Arapahoe Square are very different urban streets. Wynkoop is resplendent with Victorian-era brick warehouses, strong urban form, an attractively streetscaped public realm, and civic icons like Denver Union Station. 21st Street? Surface parking lots and a largely incoherent urban form are the street’s defining characteristics. However, Wynkoop and 21st Street actually have an important attribute in common: neither are through-streets that provide vehicular connectivity beyond their extents, as both streets are capped at both ends by landmarks. Wynkoop terminates at Cherry Creek on one end and at Ballpark Plaza on the other. Similarly, 21st Street stops at Coors Field on one end and at Benedict Fountain Park at the other. This situation makes Wynkoop and 21st Street excellent candidates to be transformed into high quality bike/ped streets while still providing modest vehicular access.

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Diagram courtesy City and County of Denver.

Last night I and about 100 others attended a public meeting held by Denver Community Planning and Development and their planning consultant AECOM to review preliminary plans for such a transformation. Some of the big ideas include a two-block park within the 21st Street right-of-way near Larimer, converting Wynkoop in front of Union Station into essentially an extension of Wynkoop Plaza, creating a signature bike trail along both streets that could form the start of a bigger downtown loop, and reconfiguring the Broadway/21st Street intersection to provide a major mid-block bike/ped crossing of Broadway.

For more information, check out the city’s webpage on the project, and definitely check out David’s excellent overview at Streetsblog Denver.


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.


Call to Action: Denver Parking Day 2015

By Jenny Niemann and Madeline Keating

PARKing Day is a day of action to create temporary public spaces to demonstrate alternative, positive uses of parking spaces. Organizations around the country host pop-up parks in parking spaces to create new public spaces and enhance the urban environment in creative and interactive ways.

Denver has a huge number of underutilized land devoted to parking, which not only wastes valuable downtown space but also makes housing more expensive, produces added traffic congestion, and worsens environmental problems (Jeffrey Tumlin, Getting Parking Right in Denver). By getting involved with Denver’s biggest PARKing Day yet, you can help explore opportunities for these spaces to be allocated to a more productive use. PARKing Day 2015 is on Friday, September 18th.

PARKing Day is “an annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places” (from Parkingday.org). It is for any person, organization, artist, designer, or passerby that is invested in urban sustainability, transportation and mobility, urban planning and design, and so much more. For more information on the international movement, see the official PARKing Day website.

We want PARKing Day to be celebrated throughout Denver, highlighting the importance of open space and the huge amount of public land we currently dedicate to automobile parking spaces. Any organization, company, or individual can get involved: Just reserve a parking space for the day, and set up a simple pop-up park in that spot. Spaces can host all sorts of activities: a park, a library, games, art, seating, etc. Be careful not to let your activities interfere with the active travel lanes. For inspiration, check out Inhabitat’s round up of 2014’s PARKing Day Parks.

To host your own PARKing Day Space, follow these Denver Public Works processes for reserving a spot:

If you are requesting to reserve a spot with a parking meter:

a) Fill out the Parking Meter Request form

b) When submitting this form to DPW, you’ll need to include two additional things:

  • A drawing / site plan of what your 7′ x 18′ space will look like: what will be in there? This must include information about the barrier you will create between the travel lane and the parking spot. Please note that a bike lane is considered a travel lane and cannot be utilized as the buffer for your spot.
  • A traffic control plan for set-up and tear-down of the site. This is most easily accomplished by making sure you don’t disrupt traffic during these times. Last year, we simply parked in the adjacent space and did not enter traffic lanes during move-in and move-out. (It’s also possible you’ll be bringing very little items, or bringing things from an adjacent building and only entering from the sidewalk).

If you are requesting to reserve a parking spot with no parking meter:

a) You will need a street occupancy permit. Click here for the street occupancy permit form.

b) In addition to completing the street occupancy permit form, applicants will be required to rent “No parking anytime tow away zone” signs through a barricade company of their choosing. Those signs are required to be placed at back of curb for each parking spot reserved (approximately every 20 feet) and placed 24 hours in advance of the time of occupancy. A signed copy of the permit must be on site to over-ride the signage restriction.

Please note: If you are building a structure in your parking spot, you may need a lane of traffic to do the work safely. Closing the travel lane will require a traffic control plan and street occupancy permit.

Three other important notes:

  • Denver Public Works will only permit parking spaces on the ends of a block for PARKing DAY set-ups.
  • There needs to be a physical barrier between the parking space and the travel lane, for safety reasons. This barrier should constrain all activity to the parking space, and make sure entrances are from the sidewalk side of the space.
  • The parking space cannot include advertising for a business.

Please contact Denver Public Works Permit Operations at 303-446-3759 if you have questions about any of this—we are just passing along the process. Thanks and good luck!

For more information, please visit the Denver Parking Day 2015 Facebook page. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions, or want to chat about your space or Parking Day in general. Happy PARKing day!

~~~

Jenny Niemann and Madeline Keating are students in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at CU Denver.


Explore Denver Inside Out at Doors Open Denver 2015!

The 11th annual Doors Open Denver will take place Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26, when buildings throughout Denver will open their doors to the public for exclusive and rare viewing opportunities, exposing the inside of Denver’s unique urban fabric. Doors Open Denver is presented by the Denver Architectural Foundation and draws tens of thousands of attendees each year.

I’ve always been a big fan of Doors Open Denver, but I’m even more excited about the event now because I’m helping to organize it! I’m a new member of the Denver Architectural Foundation Board of Directors and I’m serving on the Doors Open Denver planning committee. My interest in working on Doors Open Denver is to help propel what is already the Mile High City’s premier urban exploration event into an even bigger and better opportunity for people to experience our beautiful city and learn about many of its interesting buildings and sites.

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Free participating sites include the Historic Sugar Building, the Dry Ice Factory, RedLine, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, the Denver Art Museum, The Lobby-­Paris Hotel Building, The Source, Converge Denver and TAXI, among dozens of others. Several of the sites will offer free interactive activities and exhibits. For example, the Denver Fire Department Station #3 will provide firefighter gear demonstrations, fire safety education and giveaway items, and the Byers-Evans House Museum will host The Family Dog: Denver, an exhibition of rock posters from The Family Dog (1967‐1968).

Doors Open Denver also offers ticketed Insider Tours, providing engaging opportunities to view areas of buildings not frequently open to the public. This year’s tours include a look at the Mansions of Capitol Hill, the DaVita building, the D&F Tower, and the Counter-terrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL), along with many others. Tickets will range in cost from $5 to $25, and registration will open to the public on April 6. Proceeds benefit Doors Open Denver, a nonprofit organization.

To help celebrate and promote Doors Open Denver 2015, DenverUrbanism will be featuring brief profiles of over 50 of the free participating sites—one per day for the next 50-plus days—until Doors Open Denver weekend in April! To help with this monumental effort is our Doors Open Denver star intern Maggie Lyons, whose first site profile (featuring Denver Union Station, our Doors Open Denver 2015 headquarters) will appear here tomorrow.