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What If? Greyhound Bus Station Staying Put, Efforts to Move Stall

Its proximity to the high-rises and skyscrapers just to the south and west in downtown make the land potentially valuable from a real estate perspective.

The area is further distressed by relatively high crime rates and a homeless population attracted to nearby social services.

The high-end Ritz-Carlton hotel and apartment complex is just across the street from the bus station.

 The Greyhound bus station in downtown Denver has long been a hub of transit for the city's residents.

Greyhound recently confirmed it currently has no plans to move from its current station at 1055 19th Street.

The Greyhound bus station in downtown Denver has long been a hub of transit for the city's residents. However, as Denver continues to grow and mature, the location of Greyhound's station -- smack dab in the heart of downtown -- has caused some to question whether it is the best use of an entire city block. Despite recent efforts to push the station to a new location, and then revitalize the area, Greyhound says it's staying put.
Anyone familiar with downtown Denver knows Greyhound's station at 1055 19th St. You can't miss it: The aging, low-slung, station takes up an entire city block, and its bright white and blue décor is impossible to miss in its contrast to the sky-scraping architecture that surrounds it. The massive building doubles as a parking station and bus terminal, and its utilitarian uses are clearly reflected in the bunker-like design of the concrete structure.
 
The location of the Greyhound bus station is also noteworthy in its distance from other Denver transit hubs, including the nearly complete Denver Union Station. Union Station is "a unique project that will bring together many different transportation modes, along with new private development, to create a new bustling urban center and multimodal transportation hub," according to those working on the project.
 
The Greyhound station is also not the best spot to get to and from the highways, but it's enviable in that it drops passengers off downtown. It's hard to ignore the fact that a little more elbow room and highway access would be good for Greyhound and its customers.
 
But Greyhound recently confirmed it currently has no plans to move from its current station at 1055 19th Street. "We do not have any current plans to relocate in Denver," says Lanesha Gipson, a spokesperson for Greyhound Lines. "We have looked for relocation sites but have not yet found a location that would be in the best interest of our customers."

The area is further distressed by relatively high crime rates and a homeless population attracted to nearby social services.No to Union Station
 
Greyhound's aversion to relocation has confounded locals who had hoped to use the Union Station project as a prod to push Greyhound out of its current spot.
 
"I've heard that they're still looking for a good place to move to, where they can consolidate the terminal from Arapahoe Square and the maintenance/storage they have in Curtis Park," says Joel Noble, President of Curtis Park Neighbors association that works to improve the area for residents and businesses. "They've said for years that they'd be interested in moving to someplace else with good access to a highway and transit, and that is appropriate for the industrial use of vehicle maintenance."
 
Indeed, six years ago, when the Union Station redevelopment was still on the drawing board, Greyhound admitted it was interested in potentially relocating its station at 1055 19th St. -- and thereby paving the way for a redevelopment of that vacated site. "It's better for the community if that site gets redeveloped," Ryan Arnold, a Jones Lang LaSalle broker who represented Greyhound, told the Denver Post, way back in 2008.
 
In searching for a new location, Greyhound evaluated a number of locations in the downtown area, including one close to Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Further, officials with the Union Station project urged Greyhound to consider moving its operations there, noting that Union Station will have space for both RTD buses and commercial bus operators like Greyhound. For those hoping to make Union Station the city's main transit hub, Greyhound's lines seemed like the perfect addition to a location that will also offer light rail, city bus service and walking and biking opportunities.
 
However, Greyhound ulitmately conceded to the Denver Business Journal that it wasn't able to scrape up the $22 million it needed to move its operations to Union Station. "It was too cost-prohibitive for Greyhound to be a part of," Greyhound's Abby Wambaugh explained to the Denver Business Journal in 2010.
 
The result leaves Greyhound's massive station at 1055 19th Street intact, for the foreseeable future. This likely will continue to trouble nearby businesses, including the high-end Ritz-Carlton hotel and apartment complex that's just across the street from the bus station. The area is further distressed by relatively high crime rates and a homeless population attracted to nearby social services. The not-in-my-backyard mindset would be in full effect here if it weren't for the fact that the bus station was there first.

"A very valuable location" Its proximity to the high-rises and skyscrapers just to the south and west in downtown make the land potentially valuable from a real estate perspective.
 
But what's a fitting use of such a prime parcel? Another apartment tower? Offices with retail at street level? There's an opportunity to think big here, with a four-acre block in the downtown grid.

Although there have never been any firm plans to redevelop the Greyhound station and the surrounding area, its proximity to the high-rises and skyscrapers just to the south and west in downtown make the land potentially valuable from a real estate perspective, particularly as Denver officials work to spruce up areas in and around downtown.
 
"I think it's definitely a very valuable location if Greyhound were to move," agrees Mickey Zeppelin, a longtime developer in downtown Denver and head of Zeppelin Development
 
Zeppelin's projects in Denver during the past few decades have stretched from the company's greenHOUSE build in Cherry Creek to the TAXI buildings in the River North (RiNo) area of downtown Denver to the Volker Lofts in LoDo.
 
He says the property would be valuable for redevelopment into office, residential or mixed-use purposes. "I think the Denver economy is definitely going up, and I think the value of that location is probably going up," Zeppelin says.
 
Cassidy Turley Fuller Senior VP Patrick Henry says that it's safe to say the value of the roughly four-acre property is about $20 million to $30 million -- "a pretty dramatic number."

"There are people chomping at the bit for that deal," says Henry. "It's prime real estate and it's an entire city block. It's so difficult to find a property like that downtown."

Henry says that zoning issues could prove an impediment to redevelopment -- most notably the requisite underground parking -- along with remediation.

Greyhound also needs a good place to go, he adds, one that works for its customers and its logistics -- and bottom line. "One of these days, a big property off of I-25 and I-70 is going to come loose. That's what needs to happen."
 
So what exactly will happen to Greyhound's station? Developers expect to complete construction on Union Station in July, and the addition of light-rail lines west and east of downtown Denver will further expand intra-city transit opportunities for residents. But Greyhound remains one of the few low-cost options for transportation to other U.S. cities from Denver.
 
Thus, it's a good bet that Greyhound -- founded in 1914 and now owned by FirstGroup America, a subsidiary of UK-based FirstGroup plc -- will continue to operate at its station in Denver for the foreseeable future.

But the nation's improving economy -- coupled with Denver's increasingly noisy commercial real estate market -- could drive prices up to a point where it makes even more sense for Greyhound to sell its 19th Street station.

This is the first in a three-part "What If?" series by Confluence Denver. The second installment covers streetcars on Colfax; part three looks at the possibility of an Elitch Gardens redevelopment.

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Mike Dano.

Mike is a freelance writer and executive editor of FierceMarkets Telecom Group.
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