Originally opened to the public in 1881, the historic Denver Union Station recently underwent one of the most significant renovations in the United States. Initially the main railway station in Denver, the neoclassical Denver Union Station is now a beautiful transit-oriented, mixed-use development encompassing 19.5 acres. A $484-million project, Denver Union Station is the nucleus of the city’s multi-modal transportation system, including commuter trains, light rail and buses.
Surrounding the exterior of the project is a series of public spaces designed to connect the site and create gathering areas and event locations for the people of Denver. The 18,000-square-foot Wynkoop Plaza is one of these public spaces. Wynkoop Plaza is comprised of two spaces: a north plaza and a south plaza. Both plazas provide excellent locations for gathering, but each has a distinct personality. The lively south plaza features pop-up fountains where children splash and play in summer months. The fountain is computer-programmed to create numerous effects, and uplighting adds nighttime beauty. In winter months, the inactive fountain leaves an unhindered hardscape area. While sunshine, moveable chairs and tables, and restaurants characterize the south plaza, the quieter north plaza features raised perennial beds, abundant shade and granite bench seating.
Granite was a primary building material for the plaza, selected not only for its beauty but also for its surface hardness and durability. The owner had experienced positive results on past projects with granite as a pedestrian surface and desired the same results for Denver Union Station. Most of the plaza is constructed of nearly 8,000 square feet of Carnelian® granite paving with Thermal finish. The fountain area features nearly 4,000 square feet of Thermal-finished granite paving in a variety of colors: Carnelian, Agate and Mesabi Black®. The design for the paving in the plaza included drainage into the subsurface below the concrete substrate to ensure the moisture wasn’t an issue in Colorado’s numerous freeze-thaw periods. In addition to the paving, the north plaza features 70 benches of Sierra White® granite in Diamond® 100 finish.
Due to federal funding, Denver Union Station was a Buy America project. As such, the granite had to be sourced and fabricated in the United States. Lead time, quality of the stone and ability of the supplier to finish this size of project in a timely fashion were critical factors. With a hard deadline to get Amtrak back into the station, there could be no delays. With this in mind, the granite fabricator was an integral part of the team, providing technical expertise as needed.
Construction of the Denver Union Station renovation began in 2010, and the new development opened in 2014. According to the owner, the goal of making Denver Union Station the most attractive public space in Denver was achieved. The project received LEED Gold certification, which set the stage for surrounding developers and builders to follow suit.