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Playing the name game with Union Station’s new public spaces

Union Station.

The developers behind the new-and-improved Union Station -- the subject of the August feature story "Union Station May Become Denver's Gateway Again... If It Stays on Track" -- are hard at work crafting a plan for the public spaces around this future transit hub -- plazas and walkways and miniature parks that constitute the most new public space Denver’s seen in decades. Likewise, citizen groups have been hard at work offering feedback. Some have been openly clashing with developers and officials on the plan to build two new modern buildings on either side of the historic station. See the September 9 blog "Union Station Progress -- and Protest -- Continues" for details.

The Union Station Advocates group is taking a more conciliatory approach, having recently sent a letter to the station’s landscape architect noting a few friendly suggestions, such as more pedestrian-friendly elements in the new park that will run along 17th Street behind the station and a large-scale sculpture near the new light-rail stop two blocks away from the historic station building. The September 18 blog "Proposals -- and Counter-Proposals -- Take Shape for Union Station's Public Spaces" tells that side of the story.

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So far there doesn’t seem to be much discussion, however, about what, exactly, these spaces will be called – even though these are names that will play a key role in this part of town for decades, if not centuries, to come.

It looks like Union Station Plaza in front of the station will keep its long-held moniker, as most people would probably prefer. The names the landscape architect seems to have chosen for the other public spaces, though, may be more contentious. In their presentations so far, they’ve labeled the elevated court above the train yard "Kinetic Plaza," the public space along 17th Street running to the new light rail stop "Linear Park," and the greenery by this light rail station "Transit Park."

If these names are meant to be permanent, will there be a chance for people to offer counter-proposals? After all, let’s be honest: They’re a bit hokey. At best, they sound like places you’d find in Epcot Center; at worst, they’re reminiscent of park-n-rides. Aren’t there any important, regally named dead guys around who deserve a park named after them? Or why not keep things simple with a name like "17th Street Park"? Then again, maybe we should be grateful. At least there’s no indication corporate sponsors could muck things up by demanding monikers like "Dick’s Sporting Goods Train Plaza." -- Joel Warner

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