Union Station project gets facelift before it's even begun

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As the final pieces of the funding puzzle behind the $500 million rehab of Union Station fall into place, the project is finally poised to begin. But lately, what, exactly, the final development will look like has been shifting considerably, and not all observers are happy about the changes.

Yesterday, for example, the Union Station Advocates, a civic group, sent letters to authorities behind the redevelopment bemoaning the news that the $17 million set aside in the project to improve the historic station building may be slashed, possibly by up to 50 percent. To read the Advocates' letter about the station building, click here.

That isn't the only change possibly in the works for the complicated project. The Advocates sent a second letter yesterday (click here to read it) detailing other potential alterations they've heard about. Here's a breakdown of some of the possible adjustments, and what they might mean:

  • Less money for the station. Cutting funds for the historic station is sure to ruffle feathers, especially since none of the original $17 million was going to be used for historic restoration of the iconic building, or for elements that would significantly expand how the station will be used when the project is complete. Some people are concerned that the historic station, the figurative centerpiece of the redevelopment, won't be an active part of the new transit hub. Instead, they worry, it will be more like a museum exhibit, one that's almost an afterthought.
  • Eliminating moving sidewalks. To address concerns about the two-block distance between the train station and the future light-rail platform, the design originally included moving sidewalks that would transport passengers through an underground bus terminal linking the different parts of the project. But now authorities are leaning towards scrapping the walkway, since the 200-foot-long moving sidewalk would only stretch for a small fraction of the distance and complicate movement for those people using the bus terminal. The move makes sense -- after all, most moving sidewalks, like those at DIA, stretch for at least 1,000 feet -- but it might anger those still irritated by the considerable distance between the light-rail depot and the train station.
  • Shrinking the "Kinetic Plaza" over the train tracks. Originally, Union Station's developers planned to build a commercial building over the train tracks north of the station, along with a wide-open "Kinetic Plaza" that would stretch over the tracks and connect the plaza in front of the station with the train shed behind it. But now the commercial building won't be spanning the tracks, and because of that, the plaza appears to have shrunk to a run-of-the-mill pedestrian bridge. That could mean the final project could have significantly less public space in which to enjoy the new transit station.

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