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Photos: Union Station tour digs dirt on transit hub, light rail

On Saturday, city planner, urban explorer and overseer of the DenverInfill blog Ken Schroeppel took a handful of Denverites on a tour of Union Station to discuss the just-opened Light Rail Plaza and the station's future.

Here's an inside look at the project.

View of Union Station and transit hub construction.
View of Union Station and transit hub construction.
Photos by Chris Utterback

When completed, Union Station will replace Market Street Station and become Colorado's largest transit hub, comprising a bus terminal, five commuter light rail lines (including one to DIA), Amtrak, the Ski Train, and retail and restaurant space.

Ken Schroeppel speaking in Union Station.
Ken Schroeppel speaking in Union Station.

On the tour, Schroeppel said that Union Station's development will not just improve on the shabby station, but redefine transportation in Colorado. "[This project] is the 21st century equivalent of what Denver International Airport was back in the '90s -- a massive, critical piece of infrastructure that will keep Denver competitive in the future," he said.

View of bus terminal construction from inside Union Station.
View of bus terminal construction from inside Union Station.

It's estimated that by 2030, 200,000 people a day will pass through Union Station. To accommodate the increased activity at the station, according to Schroeppel, a companion shuttle system to the Mall Ride will come online in 2014-15 and service 18th and 19th streets.

Page down to continue taking our photo tour of Union Station.

As for the aging Union Station itself, besides becoming a main hub for rail, bus and even bike travel, serious improvements are in store for the 131-year-old building. "The station needs a lot of help, it's had a lot of deferred maintenance over the years," Schroeppel said. But a boutique hotel from Sage Hospitatilty, the managers of the Oxford Hotel, new restaurants, revitalized retail space and a recreation of the grand original chandeliers is intended to return the station to its former glory and reinvent it as the vibrant gateway of LoDo.

Schroeppel in front of a future develpment site.
Schroeppel in front of a future develpment site.

Schroeppel told the group that many of the empty lots surrounding Union Station will be developed into high-rise apartments, lofts and office space, and possibly even a grocery store at 19th and Chestnut. And to further encourage non-automobile transport, plans are underway for a bicycle station with bike racks, bike repair and bike rentals.

The brand-new Light Rail Plaza.
The brand-new Light Rail Plaza.

This was Schroeppel's first tour since the opening of the Light Rail Plaza, and he discussed how the Plaza fits into Denver's transportation future, revealing that light rail may be supplemented by streetcars running into Five Points and perhaps even a subway system under 16th Street.

These 'towers' are actually for air intake and bus fume exhaust, cannily disguised as pieces of public art.
These 'towers' are actually for air intake and bus fume exhaust, cannily disguised as pieces of public art.

Schroeppel estimates that renovations on Union Station will be completed by Spring 2014. For more Union Station updates and urban development tours, check out DenverInfill.com.

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