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Denver Urbanists Unite! MeetUp #15 Coming November 18, 2015

Hey Denver urbanists… it’s time for another meetup!

Please join us for Denver Urbanists MeetUp #15 on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 starting at 5:30 PM at McLoughlins Restaurant and Bar, 2100 16th Street. McLoughlins is a great neighborhood pub right next to the Millennium Bridge.

As always, there is no program or anything formal—just a bunch of friendly people getting together to chat about Denver’s growth and development and to meet like-minded people and make connections. There is no fee and you’re on your own for food and drinks.


There is a lot to talk about, right?! Huge year for RTD coming up in 2016; new development on just about every corner; new bike lanes popping up all over downtown! Stop by and discuss these and other topics with other people who love Denver and cities!

Click on the link below to see additional details. Registration just helps give us an idea of how many people to expect. You do not need to bring the RSVP ticket with you, and if you don’t register, that’s OK too. Please stop by either way!

Denver Urbanists MeetUp #15 Eventbrite RSVP

We hope to see you at Denver Urbanists MeetUp #15 on Wednesday, November 18 at 5:30 PM at McLoughlins!

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:


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.


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:


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:

2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-2 2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-7

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.

2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-3 2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-4

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:


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:


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



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.

New Enhanced Crosswalks Installed on Speer Boulevard

Have you seen the new enhanced crosswalks recently installed at a couple of key intersections along Speer Boulevard near the Auraria campus? Here are some photos I took of the new crosswalks at Speer and Lawrence just after they were installed a couple of weeks ago:



Nice! As you can probably tell, those are not real inlaid bricks but rather it’s a thermoplastic material that’s been applied to the asphalt. These enhanced crosswalks are also a few feet wider than the standard variety and were installed in mid-October along Speer Boulevard at Lawrence, Larimer, and Wewatta streets. This is test project for Denver Public Works to see how well they improve pedestrian visibility and safety.

These enhanced crosswalks could be a possible short-term solution for improving pedestrian safety at 17th and Wynkoop, as discussed in our recent post and at Streetsblog Denver. To learn more about pedestrian safety around Denver Union Station, please attend the public meeting on November 4 at 5:30 PM at Wynkoop Brewing’s Mercantile Room at 18th and Wynkoop.

Lawrence Street Protected Bike Lane Includes Floating Bus Stops

Exciting news, Denver ped/bike advocates! As part of the new Lawrence Street protected bike lane project, a new floating bus stop is being installed at the corner of Lawrence and 16th Street. Here’s a photo from Friday:


Protected bike lane with floating bus stop under construction at 16th and Lawrence in Downtown Denver, October 2015.

The new bike lane will run between the sidewalk and a new bus stop island that’s “floating” in the street separated from the curb. This creates a much safer environment as it allows bicyclists and buses to avoid weaving around each other near bus stops. Pedestrians, however, must cross the bike lane to get to the bus stop island, so both bicyclists and pedestrians must proceed with caution. To help with that, “Ped Xing”, “yield arrows”, and “zebra-stripe crosswalk” markings will be installed within the bike lane, and “Look!” markings will be installed on both sides of the pedestrian crosswalk ramps, as shown below:


Look! crosswalk markings will be installed at floating bus stops along Lawrence Street in Downtown Denver. Source: City and County of Denver

Floating bus stops of similar design will also be installed at the 18th/Lawrence and 20th/Lawrence intersections.

These aren’t the first floating bus stops in Downtown Denver. They are used in several locations along RTD’s free Metroride route.

It’s great to see Denver is finally stepping-up its game when it comes to more progressive and legible ped/bike/transit infrastructure within the city’s public rights-of-way!

17th and Wynkoop: Downtown’s Most Important Pedestrian Intersection?

With the 2014 opening of the Denver Union Station project, it seems like the epicenter of Downtown shifted dramatically to the northwest. In many ways, Union Station now feels like the heart of Downtown, and this is before next year’s launch of RTD’s new rail lines and the completion of almost a dozen more infill developments in the area.

Denver Union Station during grand-opening weekend, July 2014.

As expected with the great success of the Union Station project, the streets and sidewalks around the station have become busier. One intersection in particular—17th and Wynkoop—stands out. Due to the huge appeal of Wynkoop Plaza and the iconic station’s architecture and mix of uses, the corner of 17th and Wynkoop has blossomed into a thriving public space, with pedestrians flowing across the street to and from the plaza and station building. Pedestrians are increasingly “owning” the intersection, and driving a vehicle through there now requires some patience.

The fact that pedestrians feel empowered to confidently occupy the crosswalks and control the tempo of the intersection through their movements is a strong indicator of a successful urban place! At Union Station Advocates, we couldn’t be more thrilled with this situation as it’s exactly what we had hoped would happen. I and other urbanists in Denver believe that the intersection of 17th and Wynkoop is perhaps now the most important pedestrian intersection in all of Downtown Denver. We need to nurture and grow that condition.

Before continuing, let me be clear about an important point: Cities are for people, and especially in downtowns pedestrians must be given the highest priority in the use of the public realm. Downtown Denver was declared a “pedestrian priority zone” by Denver City Council in October 2007; the Downtown Denver Area Plan identified “A Walkable City: Putting Pedestrians First” as one of five vision elements; and the Downtown Denver Pedestrian Priority Zone Plan identified Wynkoop as a Transformative Street—the highest pedestrian-quality street type. Prioritizing the pedestrian is especially important around transit stations, and there are none bigger or more important in the city than Denver Union Station.

Back to 17th and Wynkoop: Unfortunately, not all drivers approach the corner with deference to pedestrians. There are still drivers and bicyclists who operate through the intersection with disregard to pedestrians, particularly when making right turns from Wynkoop to 17th or vice versa. The 2016 launch of the A Line, B Line, and G Line will significantly increase pedestrian activity on Wynkoop Plaza and at this intersection. We need to make sure 17th and Wynkoop and all of the streets around Union Station are well-prepared to maximize ped/bike mobility and safety and appropriately manage cars, taxis, tour buses, valet services, and all other transport options.


Modest bike lane striping along Wynkoop Plaza at Denver Union Station.


Taxis and other vehicles routinely block the bike lane along Wynkoop Plaza.

Currently, 17th and Wynkoop has the standard crosswalks, signs and other public right-of-way design elements you might find at any regular downtown intersection—nothing that would indicate the importance or pedestrian focus to the corner. With as many as 100,000 people a day expected to flow through the Union Station Transit District once all of RTD’s lines are up and running, it is critical that we proactively plan for the happy onslaught of pedestrian traffic around the station.


Standard crosswalks on Wynkoop connect Union Station with LoDo.


Lack of signs that emphasize pedestrian priority at Union Station’s crosswalks.

To that end, Union Station Advocates will be holding a special public meeting to talk about options for improved signage, street striping, lighting, parking controls, and other design features that could be installed both in the short-term (before the A Line opening in April) and in the medium- and long-term. We will be exploring options for not just 17th and Wynkoop, but 16th Street and Wewatta Street as well.

Here are the meeting details:

Pedestrian Safety and Mobility @ Denver Union Station – Public Meeting!
Wednesday, November 4, 2015 – 5:30 PM
Mercantile Room, Wynkoop Brewing Company
18th & Wynkoop Streets

Please stop by to learn what some of the design and regulatory options might be and to give your feedback on how you think pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles of all types should be managed around Union Station. Representatives from Denver Public Works will be there to hear your ideas and to provide additional information.

See you on November 4!!