Public lounging areas outside Union Station, long branded “Denver’s living room,” are disappearing.
Seating along 17th Street, behind the tracks, has been fenced off for months. And on Wednesday morning, neighbors awoke to jackhammers pulverizing stone benches near Wewatta Pavilion.
Plants will replace the benches, RTD spokesperson Pauletta Tonilas said in a statement. RTD has been working on redesigning the plaza for some time, she said.
“After months of planning, the stone pedestals adjacent to the Wewatta and Chestnut pavilions are being removed and replaced with pavers and landscaping to further enhance pedestrian circulation and improve the greenspace of the greater Denver Union Station complex,” she said.
Common space has become less common in Denver, where the city closed and has fenced off much of Civic Center Park and regularly sweeps encampments from sidewalks.
Many who have been displaced in the process have found space to gather at Union Station, where they could take care of basic biological functions: sleep, using the restroom and socializing.
Last week, after a string of reports about an increase in crime at the transit hub, Denverite spent 18 hours at Union Station. We spoke to people who were spending time there charging phones, using the restroom, enjoying the relative quiet, getting wifi, waiting for trains and buses, sleeping and seeking shelter.
Over the day we were there, the number of public facilities shrank. The bus station restrooms had already been shuttered for remodeling by RTD after it found a trace amount of fentanyl in the bathroom. The train station restrooms were shut down to all but people staying at the Crawford Hotel or patronizing the surrounding restaurants and shops. The comfortable couches, chairs and desks throughout the Great Hall were only available to patrons, too.