Can Union Station turn its model trains into art?

Can Union Station turn its model trains into art?

The Union Station Alliance just announced its first three tenants for the renovated Union Station — beyond the 112-room hotel that Sage Hospitality is putting there, of course. Rumors have been swirling for months over what restaurants will be going into the project; last Wednesday, standing at a podium in front of the Oxford Hotel with the historic train station in the background, Joe Vostrejs of Larimer Associates, one of the USA partners, officially announced that when the facility reopens in July 2014, it will include at least three Colorado ventures.

One will be a new restaurant and market concept from Alex Seidel of Fruition, with "a real European feel," Seidel promises. After a year and a half of secrecy, the chef/entrepreneur/farmer said he was happy to "come out of the closet" with his plans, which call for taking on almost 5,000 square feet in the northern portion of the station, which he'll stock with local produce — including some from his own Larkspur farm — and products that focus on the theme of "preservation." Much like the station itself.

Moving into the old, white-tiled train passageway will be another location of Snooze, which got its start at 2262 Larimer Street seven years ago and today has five locations in Colorado and one in San Diego, with more to come. The Union Station Snooze will be a little smaller than the other spots, says co-owner Adam Schlegel, "but we'll still do what we do best." And that will be serving breakfast and lunch to locals and travelers alike — and attracting long lines.

Taking on a 4,432-square-foot space in the southern portion will be the Kitchen Next Door; a variation on the Kitchen concept that has been so successful in Boulder, it will pair with the Kitchen that opened in LoDo in March 2012. "It's been a long road," says co-owner Kimbal Musk.

This particular road started three and a half years ago, when Dana Crawford, the developer who saved Larimer Square decades ago, called Vostrejs and said they should try to take on Union Station. The Union Station Alliance (Sage Hospitality is the third partner in the group) ultimately won the redevelopment contract from RTD and is putting in a "beautiful hotel and a really great collection of Colorado-based chefs," Vostrejs says. And there's more to come — but all that is still secret.

Train gang: Not so secret — not since we spilled the beans in the April 25 Off Limits, at least — is the fact that the two model railroad clubs that had their layouts in the basement of Union Station (and were promised that they could reopen there after the redevelopment) are getting the boot. The 6,500-square-foot layout created by the Denver Society of Model Railroaders, the largest O Scale layout in the country, has been in Union Station for almost eighty years, but it may have to go; the Union Station Alliance is still negotiating with the club, the developer reports. And the Platte Valley & Western Model Railroad, which has had a 2,000-square-foot layout there for more than thirty years, pulled out the final pieces last weekend; that club is still looking for a home.

Here's an idea: Maybe it should apply to become a piece of public art...in Union Station!

The Denver Union Station Project Authority "is seeking an artist, or artist team, for a site-specific public art commission that will enhance this expansive, multimodal transportation project — the largest transit redevelopment project in North America," according to the proposal notice. The work must have a presence during both day and night, but we're sure the PV&W members would be up for that. They could lay a lot of tracks with the estimated budget of $500,000, and it's hard to imagine a project that fits better with the specific goals for this public art, which call for "creating a unique work of art that references the past, present and future of this transit project."

The deadline for applying is June 1. All aboard!

 
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