{Denver style} The New & Improved Union Station and the Crawford Hotel

Friday, July 25, 2014

Although I am not currently practicing law {since I am staying home with my boys for a couple of years}, one my favorite parts of my job representing metropolitan districts was getting an inside look at some of the major development and redevelopment projects happening around Denver and throughout Colorado.

Last spring, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take a hard hat tour of Denver's Union Station mid-renovation {and, of course, I blogged all about it}. Ever since that time, I have been eager to take another tour as soon as the renovations were complete. The official grand opening of the new and improved Union Station is tomorrow, but I spent some time there last weekend, so I'm excited to give you a glimpse inside!


Denver's Union Station originally opened in 1881, but was rebuilt in 1894 follow a devastating fire. Union Station was in its prime during the 1920s and '30s, but as train travel declined in the second half of the 20th century, so did Union Station. Beginning in the late 1980's, the City and County of Denver and the Regional Transportation District (RTD) began making improvements to the Union Station site to accommodate bus lanes and light rail transit. Read my original post about the Union Station redevelopment plans to learn more history and see some historical photos.

Then in the early 2000s, numerous entities began working together to plan for the future of Union Station. The plans included major renovations to the historic train station, as well as converting the surrounding 19.5 acres into a transportation hub to accommodate pedestrian traffic, bicycles, taxis, pedicabs, motor vehicles, the 16th Street Shuttle, the 18th Street Circulator, RTD regional buses, intercity buses, light rail, commuter rail, and heavy rail. Read my prior post to see illustrations and renderings of the Union Station site plans.

The front, center facade of the building that faces Wynkoop Street does not look drastically different than it did before the renovations.... 

...but on the other side of the station it's an entirely different story!


A new open-air train hall with a canopy that rises to 70 feet on the ends, and dips to 22 feet in the middle, provides shelter for passengers while preserving views of the historic station.

This is what it looked like when I visited last March when the structure was in place, but the canopy not yet on.


I always love the contrast of modern construction alongside historic architecture, so I just couldn't stop taking pictures of the juxtaposition of Union Station and the canopy structure.




I am excited about the transportation aspects of this project and what they mean for the future of the city and surrounding region, but I am equally excited about the changes that have happened inside the station! Union Station's Great Hall, which has always served as a waiting area for train passengers, is now stunningly beautiful. The before and after photos are a real testament to the power of white paint and the importance of great lighting!

Here's the before picture from my hard hat tour in March of 2013, and the after from last weekend...


The developers envisioned the Great Hall becoming Denver's living room, and from what I observed last Saturday evening, this description is right on. Couples and small groups of friends were stopping to mingle and take it all in on their way to dinner, and a bit later crowds of people were passing through as they arrived via lightrail for a night on the town. And all of this on a night when the Terminal Bar, the central feature of the Great Hall, was not even open yet, and the seating in the center of the hall was roped off due to to protect the Terminal Bar's recently sealed floors.


I just love the furniture choices throughout the space, and the details that nod to the glory days of train travel really make the renovation feel special. At the Terminal Bar, for example, the old ticket windows have been preserved, and throughout the hall, the signage resembles those would have once included train schedules.


Every detail of the renovated station is just gorgeous! The carved trim was previously painted a dark color, making the intricate details of the columbines barely noticeable, but now that the trim is painted white, these details have become focal points.



I can't get over the new chandeliers! I could have taken pictures of them all day long {and I kinda did}!



The old benches that previously occupied the Great Hall could not be salvaged because they contained asbestos {a discovery that had been made only days before I took my hard hat tour last spring}. While I know many are disappointed that the old benches could not be reused, from the history I have read, those benches did not actually date back very far in the history of the station. I think the darker wood color of the new benches provides a great contrast to soft white paint, and they are quite comfortable!


In addition to the improvements in the Great Hall, the remainder of the building is also now being put to good use!


On the first floor, the north and south facing wings house a number of new restaurants and casual dining options {the Kitchen Next Door, Stoic & Genuine, and Snooze, to name a few}, as well as a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, and retails shops {including the Tattered Cover, Bloom, and Five Green Boxes}. Some of these restaurants and shops were open when I visited last week, while others will open this weekend or shortly thereafter.

We ate dinner at the Kitchen Next Door, and it was so exciting to see the beams that I had photographed during my hard hat tour last year still exposed in the transformed space!


We also took a peek into Stoic & Genuine, where I spotted more beams I recognized. I think the hostess thought I was crazy snapping pictures and muttering about having seen those beam last year!


The second, third and fourth floors of Union Station's north and south wings now house the 112-room Crawford Hotel.


The hotel opened on July 12th, and last weekend Scott and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary with a little staycation at the Crawford. We didn't splurge for one of the more expensive loft rooms on the top level, but our third floor "Superior Classic" room did not disappoint. The room was a nice size, but felt even larger because of the 14 foot ceilings and the floor to ceiling windows.


My favorite element of the room was definitely the orange tufted headboard with the aged mirrored trim!



Another favorite feature was the wood detail overlaid on the frosted sliding door separating the bathroom from the bedroom.



Our room overlooked the front of the station with views of downtown.


The views from our room were lovely, but even more impressive were the views down into the Union Station Great Hall from each floor of the hotel.


On the mezzanine level of the hotel is the Cooper Lounge, which overlooks the Great Hall and sits below soaring arched windows with views of the city.



When we were there, the lounge was only accessible to hotel guests, but I understand that after the grand opening of the Great Hall, the Cooper Lounge will be open to hotel guest during the day and to the public in the evenings.



The Cooper Lounge is furnished impeccably with a wide variety of light-colored upholstered chairs and couches. Fitting to its train station location, numerous vintage trunks and suitcases are mixed in amongst the seating.



We had a lovely time staying at the Crawford, and it was fun to have the opportunity to be among the very first to experience this brand new hotel and to explore Union Station even before its grand opening!



Now I can't wait to bring our boys down to play in the new fountains in front of Union Station some weekend soon!


I hope you enjoyed the tour! If you live in the Denver area, make sure you get down to Union Station to check out the renovated station and all of the transportation improvements. And for everyone else, come visit!



4 comments :

  1. I too loved the new and renovated Union Station. Have been there 2 weeks back and I was super stoked at how beautifully its designed.

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  2. Great post! I think my husband and I might need a weekend away at the Crawford!

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  3. Do you have any idea where they got those beautiful barstools?

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  4. Good write up Angela! I think my husband and I might need a weekend away at the Crawford!
    Delores Ensley

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