John Portman & Associates Designs Union Tower in West Denver

John Portman & Associates (JPA) has designed Union Tower West, a new $100 million mixed-use building to be built across the street from Denver’s historic Union Station and adjacent to Denver’s newest neighborhood, The Commons. Extending the concepts of connectivity, walkability and urbanism inherent in the overall master plan for the area, the project features a 180-key select-service hotel, approximately 100,000 square feet of office space above the hotel, and a parking garage for 216 cars.

The project interacts with the existing and planned urban context by creating a new public space at the visual termination of Wewatta and 18th Street. This public space is defined as an urban loggia and serves as a pedestrian entry court to the project that also emphasizes a linkage to the recently constructed pedestrian crossing at the new multimodal station. It is anticipated that this landscaped plaza will be utilized for outdoor dining and events.

A separate covered vehicular drop-off is planned at the north side of the site, minimizing the impact of traffic on the surrounding area. Union Tower West is designed to capitalize on and contribute to the walkability of the neighborhood by providing bicycle parking, electric-car charging stations and easy access to the nearby transit mall. A transparent pavilion reveals the hotel lobby, dining and meeting room functions to the city, while the mixed-use nature of the project assures 24-hour activity on the site.

The building’s form and orientation maximizes views of the Rocky Mountains, the city and Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The building is organized as a stacked series of program elements: the active commercial ground floor, three levels of sloped-floor parking, four hotel levels, and four office levels. The three parking levels lift the hotel and office above the adjacent projects to further enhance views and daylighting.

Innovative façade technology optimizes energy usage and comfort through high-performance glazing that also serves to enhance views from the project. Increasing the building’s glazed area maximizes daylight into the office spaces, minimizing the need for artificial illumination. Additional sustainable design concepts employed, such as rainwater collection, smart controls, high-performance equipment, green roofs, and use of local material will help this project achieve an expected level of LEED Silver, if not Gold.

Union Tower West represents the firm’s first project in Denver. Gordon Beckman, AIA, JPA principal and design director, explains the firm’s vision for the building, “This project continues and expands the concepts promoted by The Commons master plan and Union Station redevelopment. The vitality of this district is the impetus for transforming this significant corner site in Denver. The project’s hotel amenities and functions support and complement the office functions, as well as the neighboring residential projects, thus continuing the lively mixed-use community of The Commons. We are very pleased to contribute to this vital up-and-coming area of the city.”

Located at 1801 Wewatta Street, the site in Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo) is being developed by Portman Holdings in partnership with Hensel Phelps. Travis Garland of Portman Management Company has already begun leasing the office space. JPA continues to develop the architectural design for an anticipated construction start in late fall of this year.