Union Station developer to be decided by RTD tomorrow, but LoDo is already aglow

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For decades, the area around Union Station was Denver's heart, the place where many people (myself included, on a train from Chicago) got their first glimpse of the city. But a century after Denver's founding, air travel was taking over the "Travel by Train" touted in neon above the station, and when Union Station finally closed this winter, only two trains a day were coming into the landmark.

That will change in 2014, when the project that turns the area around Union Station into a multi-modal hub is slated for completion. And tomorrow night, the RTD board is slated to make its twice-delayed decision on which of two developers will get the contract to transform the station itself.

At holiday gatherings across the city this past weekend, people were discussing the various pluses and minuses of the two proposals, both of which were announcing new amenities and improvements last week. (See the latest plans for the Union Station Alliance here and the Union Station Neighborhood Co. here.)

But already, the area around the station -- which by the late '70s, when Westword opened its office there, was a desolate collection of mostly empty warehouses -- has been transformed. Last night I spent a couple of hours tramping up and down the streets of what's now known as LoDo, judging the holiday displays of two dozen businesses competing in LoDo Aglow. The joint was jumping -- with people heading to holiday parties in restaurants, or on their way to the skating rink at Skyline Park with its holiday market, or heading to a bar to continue celebrating the Broncos victory, or simply enjoying the lights themselves, including the illuminated, if empty, Union Station.

Whatever the RTD board decides tomorrow, this area is on the move. All aboard!

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