Come 2011, give or take, Denver's downtown will wake up to a new Union Station. Its antique beaux-arts architecture, originally fashioned in 1894, will be married to modern lines. Little used now, the station and the surrounding 19.5-acre property will hum with retail shops and pedestrian traffic.
More striking, the old depot will become a multimodal transportation portal, the beating heart of an ambitious, 119-mile light-rail network known as FasTracks. When that project is complete in 2017, nine major transit routes serving a seven-county region will meet within Union Station's complex of train platforms, bus bays, and curbside stops. So suburbanites stepping into the station from their morning ride might continue their journey using any number of transportation alternatives, including light and commuter rails, Amtrak trains, mall shuttles, city buses, airport vans, and taxis. With Union Station as the pivot point, the system promises to dramatically reduce travel times for journeys through the Denver metro area.
The design, led by Continuum Partners and East West Partners, aims to revive the building as a cultural anchor by focusing workaday bustle in its direction. How? By commingling different transportation modes—some at street level and others underground—with multiuse planning. Plazas around the site will abut retail space, with offices and hotel rooms folded in. The idea is to create a transfer hub that makes work travel feel less like a daily odyssey—and to ensure that pedestrians aren't sequestered from elements that strike the spirit as both grand and central.
Price tag: $400 million
Retail space: 250,000 square feet
Anticipated daily commuter traffic: 205,800 people a day by 2030
A version of this article appeared in the April 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.