Commongrounds and Union Station

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Commongrounds Coffee House is a small coffee shop/lunch place in Lower Downtown Denver.  They are located in a large building, but only take up a small tenant space in the first floor.  I must be honest, I expected a lot better atmosphere from this shop.  Spatially the establishment functioned well, but the details could have been a lot more spectacular.

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The layout consisted of two larger seating areas on both sides of the door, separated by bookshelves.  Each of these seating areas were pleasantly situated by the large full-height storefront windows.  Another small seating area was situated just off to the side of the beverages counter.  The counter itself took up a large portion of the room, with coffee and tea ordering and creating to the far left, food ordered and made in the half-circle portion of the counter, and alcoholic beverages served to the far right of the counter.  Prominent signage, with their name and logo hung in another concave semi-circle behind the main counter.  Another small booth seating area occupied the back portion of the shop near the restrooms at the very back.

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Circulation ran smoothly, with people channeled through the main entry forced through on either sides by half-height bookcases framing the customer on both sides.  Main circulation revolves around the counter, and secondary circulation branches off to the various  seating spaces.

As stated before, the details were nothing extraordinary.  Furniture consisted of a variety of wooden chairs and tables,  the ceiling was exposed to the black painted ductwork, and lighting consisted mostly of downlighting spotlights.

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Union Station on the other hand is a pleasantly surprising space.  This building is indeed the main Amtrak Train and Bus Depot for Denver.  The entire building, exterior, and courtyard was renovated last year, once again making this space a pleasant one for the visitor.  The exterior courtyard is sprawling, with the building façade itself boasting a complex masonry cladding.

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Once you enter the building, through either side, you pass through a small airlock, and enter into the main waiting room.  A restaurant and bar, Terminal Bar, is situated at the front of the space, while the exterior spaces of the main room are occupied by gift shops on the left side and small restaurants on the right.  Cafeteria seating exists just outside Terminal Bar, and the rest of the spaces are arranged with couches, side tables, table lamps, and armchairs in comfortable and intimate settings, with area rugs defining each setting.  The middle portion is raised with two tale shuffleboard games in the middle flanked at each end by more lounge seating.  A florist station is setup at the end of this raised space, and some of the traditional high-backed benches have been placed at the far end of the station.  Train and bus access can be reached by a hallway to the very back right of the main lobby.  The three upper levels of the station consist of office space.

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Circulation happens in an orderly, orthogonal fashion.  Two main walkways go from the entries to the back, and cross to reach the trains, with secondary circulation splitting the lounge spaces and entering the restaurants and gift shops, and tertiary circulation spanning from the primary circulation to the raised portion of the station.

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In terms of details, the space was stunning, with the furniture lending to a homey, warm feeling, and the lighting giving a grand scale to the space.

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2 thoughts on “Commongrounds and Union Station

  1. This is a beautiful building, and I am glad it has been renovated. Do you know to what extent it was renovated? Did they install new lighting, finishes, or signage? Do you feel like the functions provided in the interior are utilized fully? I know many larger cities have these spaces and struggle with how to effectively renovate them. One quick note is that all exterior doors swing out since they need to swing in the direction of the path of egress. Occasionally, historic buildings can be grandfathered in, but if there is a significant renovation the building has to be brought up to code – which typically begins with egress.

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    1. Good point. I know that they completely gutted the building, maybe except for masonry wall finishes and redid the rest. I do feel like the spaces are used to their full potential.

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