Model shows how transit plaza would appear in the Continuun East West Partners plan.

The two master developers vying to redevelop Denver Union Station–Union Station Partners LLC and Continuum Partners/East West Partners–unveiled Sept. 7 their dramatically different visions for revitalizing the station and surrounding historic district.

The project is considered to be the largest transit-oriented development currently under way in the United States.

Union Station Partners’ plan calls for a gleaming complex marked by four towers from 24 to 46 stories tall to be built in two phases ending in 2015. The Continuum/East West proposal, in contrast, favors more modest massing and a design-build approach that would deliver the entire project by 2011.


Presentation: Denver Union Station
(Courtesy of Union Station Partners LLC)

Both proposals, however, stress the importance of strengthening the site’s 17th Street axis, better integrating the station into the Lower Downtown Historic District and connecting it with Commons Park in the burgeoning Central Platte Valley.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said what happens at the station has serious ramifications for the Denver area.

“Great cities are the result of an aggregate of good decisions. How many good decisions you make has everything to do with your success?” he asks.

The Union Station Partners plan includes a $515-million transit package that would bury light rail, commuter rail and bus lines, with light-rail trains entering the station underground from the west. “Our proposal creates a head-in light-rail interface that eliminates major cost and allows for immediate development of mixed-use parcels,” says architect Brad Buchanan, a principal with Denver’s Buchanan Yonushewski Group.

A model overview of the Continuum East West Partners submission.

The development would include four buildings with 250,000 sq ft of retail space, 1 million sq ft of office space and 900 residential units, including two hotels with a total of 600 rooms. Twelve parcels of the station would be sold to other developers.

Phase I, which would take place from 2008 through 2011, would include the construction of all transit infrastructure; the station’s forecourt, wing buildings, renovation and restoration, RTD headquarters, parking and a significant portion of the residential component. Phase II, which includes construction of two hotels with a total of 600 rooms and the remaining residential and office space, would be complete by 2015. Estimated total cost: $1.5 billion.

Union Station Partners LLC is a team comprised of Cherokee Investment and Phelps Development, with Kohn Pederson Fox, Williams Jackson Ewing, Arup, New Boston Fund Inc., Trammell Crow Co., Hensel Phelps Construction, Sage Hospitality Resources, Civitas Inc., Buchanan Yonushewski Group, Beyer Blinder Belle and Dakota Ridge Development.

The Continuum Partners/East West Partners plan would bury bus and commuter-rail lines while maintaining light rail lines at grade, with the light rail station two blocks west of the main station. The platform would be at the intersection of a new 17th Street pedestrian mall.

The development would feature 246,000 sq ft of retail space, 732,000 sq ft of offices and 783,000 sq ft of residential space, plus a grocery store, large-format retailer and parking for 1,980 cars.

The Continuum Partners/East West Partners transit proposal would cost $300 million; the team didn’t offer an estimate for the total development cost.

The proposal “provides everything better, faster and at a significantly reduced cost – all by 2011,” says project team member Frank Cannon of Continuum Partners.

The Continuum Partners/East West Partners team includes DMJM Harris, Kiewit, Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Paco Group, Civil Technology Inc., DRG Construction, ERM, Kaplan Kirsch and Rockwell and Ronald Staka.

Both team’s transit plans would cost more than the $214 million allotted in the FasTracks plan, but both groups say they would be able to bridge the financing gaps. East West Partners representatives noted that the company already owns a large portion of the real estate surrounding Union Station, and Continuum has acquired additional parcels. Their holdings would become part of the station development, expanding the 19.5-acre site by another 13 acres.

In Nov., 2004, voters in the eight-county Regional Transportation District approved a 0.4-cent-sales tax increase to fund a 12-year transit plan that includes the the station redevelopment, new light and commuter rail rail in six new corridors and three corridor extensions.

The station is jointly owned by RTD, the City and County of Denver, the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

(Photos courtesy of Continuum/East West Partners)