The Wynkoop Plaza Area at Union Station…Denver’s Bosque Region

With construction getting under way on the Platte side of the station (see photo at right),  final planning of how the public areas will look continues. At a public meeting on Thursday, March 25, further recommendations were made for the public area in front of the station, on the Wynkoop Street side, between 16th and 18th Streets.

Landscape design is being directed by Hargreaves Associates, who presented renderings of the plan now evolved. (These renderings are to be posted week of 29 March at the DUSPA website.) The main features are trees and water.

There are two main areas of the Wynkoop Plaza, defined by the station, the street and the two “wing” buildings, one of which will begin construction later this year. The IMA Building will anchor the north end of the area. A yet to be finalized four story building will sit at the 16th and Wynkoop corner.

The resulting North Plaza area will feature a bosque in front of the station. A bousquet (the actual French word for this) is a formal planting of trees in set rows, popularized in early formal garden designs of the 17th century in Europe. The preliminary rendering shown last night had this area taking about half the space in the North Plaza. Linear seating planters are being proposed to be interspersed in the tree area. And, movable chairs will be a feature as well. Lighting and other necessary “furniture” are still being determined as are the types of trees to be planted.

The South Plaza area in front of the station will also have some trees, but will feature a multi-spray pattern programmable fountain. This is the sunnier side of the entire plaza. When the renderings are posted you should have a good idea of what the fountain entails.

Trees also will line the walk along Wynkoop, between 16th and 18th Streets.

Both wing buildings are being designed for street level retail, restaurants and such, with openings onto the plaza areas, tables and umbrellas. The plaza areas can be configured to accommodate festivals of different sizes, markets, functions, tents, games, ice skating, curling and even petanque.

Denver by the Slice has some concerns about the Plazas and will discuss them more as time and construction go by. But, basically, throughout the process, a major question is still unanswered. That is, “Who is the Steward of the Area?” In other words, who will take care of it, program the fountain, put out the tents, pick up the trash and so forth.

We believe that overall this is a good plan, and will be infinitely better than the parking lots in front of the station now. But, if you have seen the newly redone Writer Square streetscape, you can understand how an open urban area can look cluttered, even tacky. Be careful with the Union Station space, please.

And, water features bring people…and kids…and that is good. But, is there a chance this could look like the sandy “beach” area at Confluence Park on a summer weekend? At least the water at Union Station should be cleaner. Watch out for wet seats on the Mall Shuttles.

With all of the Union Station re-development, we are promised lots of “street level retail.” A lot of the space that has been created is still just space. Vacant. Unrealized. More efforts have to go into finding tenants and the neighborhood will have to support them.

To their credit, if budgets hold and design clears, the trees will be great! The design firm states they have a commitment to plant more mature trees to shorten the growing-in period. Bring on our Bosquet!