Friday, April 26, 2019 -
Print Edition

Union Station: History for the future

Artistic rendering of what the renovated Union Station will look like.THE storied passenger trains of five major railroads passed in and out of its platforms every day, loading and unloading thousands of passengers.

Massing beneath the soaring arches of the depot’s Great Hall, and sitting on its seemingly endless oaken benches, hurried crowds seemed part of its very fabric.

Then things changed.

Airlines gradually took almost all of those passengers away. The railroads gave up the passenger train business, leaving Amtrak to take over the trade which, by the 1970s, had dwindled to one lonely passenger train through Denver each day.

The once vibrant Union Station became — like many of its fellow structures in the once-bustling Lower Downtown area — a ghost of its former self.

Instead of the noisy cacophony of crowds, its interior spaces were filled with the plaintive echoes of the footsteps of the few who still walked there.

Then things changed again.

Lower Downtown became Lodo. The area became hip and fashionable, a young baseball team built a beautiful new ball field there, trendy restaurants and taverns sprang up like mushrooms, long-neglected buildings were spruced up and given snazzy new reasons to exist.

Denver figured out that light rail was a rather fine way to move lots of people from one part of the metroplex to another.

It didn’t take long for the city to figure out that the once-proud Union Station would fit in rather nicely with this new and growing fondness for rail, and that its ambitious architecture and air of Victorian grace would dovetail perfectly with the Lodo renaissance.

And so it shall be.

IN late December, the board of RTD — which owns Union Station — approved a plan put forward by the Union Station Alliance to redevelop the depot into a multi-use facility firmly grounded as a light rail and bus transit center.

While the station will thus reclaim its historic role as central Denver’s transportation anchor, however, it will also blossom into much more than that. The USA plan calls for a large hotel, restaurants and coffee shops and retail development.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email

Chris Leppek

IJN Assistant Editor |

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