In Denver’s Union Station, the Great Hall, a grand public foyer, is unlike most bench-filled waiting rooms. On a recent visit, clusters of friends shared cocktails after work, mobile office workers tapped at computers from a library table, backpackers lounged on sofas, diners grabbed upscale burgers and one homeless man enjoyed the comfort of a wingback chair.
The 1914-vintage downtown landmark underwent a $54 million renovation completed in 2014 that filled the sprawling, blocklong station with a roster of restaurants and bars by some of Denver’s top chefs, branches of local shops and a stylish 112-room boutique hotel, all while preserving its use as an Amtrak station.
As of April 22, the station took on a new role as the city’s transportation heart when the electric commuter rail line from Denver International Airport, 22.8 miles east, began making the 37-minute trip into the city.
The station is the focal point of a $500 million project to reorder Denver’s transit system, creating a hub for Amtrak, additional light-rail lines throughout the city (three are expected to open this year) and local and national bus services. Currently an estimated 30,000 commuters and visitors use Union Station daily. With the introduction of the new airport train, named the University of Colorado A Line, management expects traffic will climb to 104,000 people daily by year’s end.
“Rail built this town back in the day, and it’s fun to see it’s sustaining it again,” said Nate Currey, spokesman for Denver’s Regional Transportation District, which is overseeing the transportation plan.
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