New Denver Union Station Upgrades Illustrate City’s Spirit of Collaboration

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Denver Union Station
New and historic Denver Union Station

In 2004, Denver voters approved a $4.7B initiative called “FasTracks” to provide funding to expand the rapid transit light-rail system throughout the Denver metro area to Denver International Airport [DIA] and the historic Denver Union Station. The route from the airport to Union Station will open at the end of the year.

Denver’s very foundation was based on its location as a transportation hub at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in the 1900s. Visit Denver is continuing that legacy by collaborating with local and state economic development agencies to push through developments like the FasTracks program. Richard Scharf, CEO/president of Visit Denver, says DMOs are moving beyond their traditional roles in destination marketing and becoming much more strategic at destination management.

“There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I’m not working with the city departments and talking about our meetings environment,” says Scharf. “We want to be sure our visitor corridors are nice for our attendees, so that’s why I think our role has really become that of a destination manager.”

When the new FasTracks rail lines open, it will validate the uncommon level of collaboration in the Greater Denver metro region, which Scharf says benefits planners seeking to organize citywides.

“Thirty-five mayors signed onto our light rail project, which encompasses the whole region, so 35 mayors gave their endorsement and helped vote 120 miles of light rail,” says Scharf. “Just to give you an idea, when the metro in D.C. was first launched, it was 30 miles. The fact that we launched a $4 billion, 120-mile light rail project was pretty incredible.”

The historic terminal itself has been restored and upgraded, and a contemporary new open-air pavilion covers the departure area by the tracks. In addition, the north and south wings of the station have been converted from office space into the new luxury Crawford Hotel.

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