The Creative (and Beautiful) Reuse of Denver Union Station
The historic Denver Union Station is once again becoming the hub of transportation in Colorado’s capital and largest city. The station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, first opened in 1881. Over the years, it fell into decline, but has recently undergone a $54 million renovation.
“Before this, this beautiful building was empty. There was nothing here,” Julie Dunn, a spokeswoman for Union Station and the Crawford Hotel, an independent hotel in the restored station, said during a recent tour of the property.
The station itself will soon be connected directly to Denver International Airport through the East Rail Line. The 22.8-mile commuter rail corridor will start operation on April 22. Additional rail lines connecting Union Station to areas around Denver are planned to open in the future. A bus concourse also provides visitors with local and regional transportation options.
But what may be most alluring is what is inside the recently renovated station. The station’s original ticketing office has been turned into the Terminal Bar, which features the original ticketing windows and a large outdoor patio overlooking Wynkoop Street. The bar offers more than 30 varieties of Colorado craft beers as well as an extensive wine list.
Mailbox Ice Creamery, meanwhile, is located inside Union Station’s former barbershop. The space showcases terrazzo floor, subway tiles, and the original large mirrors. Other tenants in the revamped Union Station include Tattered Cover Book Store, a well-known independent bookstore, and Mercantile Dining & Provision, a European-style restaurant and market.
Showcasing the building’s unique history along with modern amenities, The Crawford Hotel is a 112-room independent luxury hotel. The hotel, which opened on July 12, 2014, fills the upper floors of the north and south wings of the station. Named for urban preservationist and Union Station partner Dana Crawford, the hotel features rooms inspired by the different eras of the landmark station’s history.
“To turn it into a hotel was amazing,” Dunn said. “People love it.”
Crawford is known for leading the redevelopment of Denver’s historic Larimer Square in the 1960s, and has redeveloped more than 800,000 square feet of historic property in Denver over the years. The Crawford Hotel expects to achieve LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Many elements of the building are original, including the clocks and wrought-iron. “It was really a labor of love for the architects to save as much as we could,” Dunn said.
The station is open 24 hours. On a recent Thursday morning at 8 a.m., it was bustling with business meetings at the nearby restaurants and people chatting as they worked on their laptops and read newspapers—just as a train station should look and sound.