Denver Union Station Neighborhood Transformation | Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

A 14-block scar in the city’s urban fabric, the rail yards, track sidings, and service areas of Denver’s historic Union Station were underutilized for decades. In 2004 voters approved a tax increase to fund a regional transit plan with Union Station as the hub of the system. The redevelopment plan for the former rail yards involved master planning, urban design, and architectural design work to knit together light rail, commuter and intercity rail, regional and local buses, downtown shuttle buses, taxis, shuttles, vans, limousines, bicycle routes and pedestrian networks into an intermodal transportation hub and urban transit district.

The masterplan provides capacity for approximately 200,000 daily trips to support more than 4 million square feet of mixed-use urban infill within a 15-minute walk of the Station. The emerging Union Station neighborhood will anchor and connect the two smart-growth neighborhoods in the heart of the city – Lower Downtown and the Central Platte Valley.

The new open-air commuter rail terminal and the light rail station are above grade, spread apart by two blocks and linked together via an underground bus terminal. A common architectural language allows users to intuitively identify entrance points for at-grade and below- grade stations. The transportation facilities are bracketed by a gateway plaza at the light-rail station in the west, and two major urban squares flanking the historic station building in the east.

This substantial transportation investment, which is being delivered as a public-private partnership, has already sparked a wave of private-sector activity. The landmark station building itself is being transformed into a boutique hotel and retail center, and nearly 3 million square feet of construction projects are either underway or in design and permitting stages in the immediate neighborhood. Construction of the transit and urban infrastructure will be complete in 2014.

Additional Credit

  • Contractor: Kiewit Western
  • Engineer: AECOM USA
  • Master Developer: Union Station Neighborhood Company
  • Public Realm Designer: Hargreaves Associates

Photo Credit

  • © SOM

Denver Union Station Neighborhood Transformation

Jury Comments

This project sets a new standard for sustainability as both a means and an end: an integrated, LEED-certified transportation hub that both serves the transit needs of the community and advances the quality of life for Denver residents and visitors.

The project will bring new vitality to the heart of downtown Denver.

The architecture of the commuter train hall canopy provides an iconic focal point and makes a strong civic statement, yet its contemporary design doesn’t upstage the historic station.

2014 Institute Honor Awards for Regional and Urban Design Jury

  • Marcy McInelly, AIA, Chair
  • Urbsworks, Inc.
  • Portland, Oregon
  • David Gamble, AIA
  • Gamble Associates
  • Boston
  • Manuel de Lemos, AIA
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • The Honorable Tom Murphy
  • Senior Fellow, Urban Land Institute and
    former Mayor of Pittsburgh
  • Washington, DC
  • Brad Tomecek, AIA
  • Tomecek Studio Architecture
  • Denver

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