It's been thirty years since Denver's 16th Street Mall opened for business, and this week's cover story "It's a Mall World After All!," takes a look at the attraction's past, present and future. That future includes new life for Denver Union Station, the 131-year-old train station at the west end of the mall that's being transformed from the sleepy way station it had become to a multi-modal transportation hub complete with a boutique hotel in the grand station itself.
As explained in our 2008 feature, "The Station Agents," the reimagining of Union Station didn't happen overnight. In 2001, a consortium of public agencies bought the iconic but little-used station and the 19.5 acres it sat on for nearly $50 million. It took nine more years for construction to begin, but Denver Union Station Project Authority spokesman Roger Sherman reports that the work is now 71 percent complete.
That work includes relocating a light rail station northwest of Union Station (which is 96 percent complete), constructing eight commuter rail tracks behind the station (55 percent complete), building a 22-bay underground bus depot connecting the two (75 percent complete) and reconfiguring streets and plazas around the station (97 percent complete).
The last piece is renovating the station itself. Just 11 percent complete at this time, the plan for the station is big: restaurants and shops on the ground floors and a boutique hotel affiliated with the nearby Oxford Hotel on the top floors.
Union Station Alliance, the development team in charge of the renovation that includes Sage Hospitality CEO Walter Isenberg, recently received word from the National Park Service that its renovation plan meets the park service's standards, which is essential if the project wants to receive historic preservation tax credits. "Park Service approval was the last major hurdle we faced, and we now look forward toward our goal of opening this unique mixed-use transportation development by mid-2014," Isenberg said in a statement.
But the Alliance had to make some sacrifices to get that approval, including reducing the number of hotel rooms from 130 to 110. The nature and number of dormers to be added to the roof had to be altered, as well, according to the Denver Business Journal.
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