‘An incredibly successful experiment:’ Isenberg talks 10-year Union Station renovations

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Walter Isenberg stands in front of the original Union Station blueprints featured in the Crawford Hotel. He is finishing up most of the $11 million renovation to the hotel and complex next month. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)

Walter Isenberg is placing more dollars into Denver’s “town square.” 

The hotelier is putting the final touches on an $11 million renovation of Union Station, which largely affects the 112-room The Crawford Hotel within it.

“We’ve got people from all over the world, from all walks of life coming to use this space. And that is, I think, this quilt of humanity,” said Isenberg, CEO of Denver-based Sage Hospitality.

“We’re very excited about reintroducing it to the city.” 

The changes, which include a new lobby for hotel guests along with new and renovated eateries in the Great Hall, are the first major renovations to the building since 2014, when the train station dating to 1881 reopened after a $54 million renovation. The three-story Crawford Hotel was created as part of that project.

“It’s been an incredibly successful experiment,” Isenberg said. “We’re really proud of the fact that this in a way has become the town square in downtown Denver.”

Renovations for hotels usually occur every seven to 10 years, he said. The pandemic pushed the initial refreshing of the Crawford back several years. 

“We reserve money every single month, and put it away through that process, and those reserves are what we use to reinvest,” Isenberg said.

The latest renovations are expected to wrap up by the start of July, with the exception of a “refresh” starting in October to ice-cream spot Milkbox and the Pigtrain coffee company. 

A new lobby, dubbed “The Parlour,” has been added to give guests private elevator access to their rooms. The space will offer a welcome cocktail to patrons, feature live music on a regular basis and will assist guests in filling out their Denver itineraries. Every room in the hotel will be improved, with new custom art-deco furniture and 1,000 pieces of locally sourced art.

In the Great Hall, four new kiosks are being added. One will be a florist, and another will be called Baumé, serving champagne and dessert. The other tenants are still in the works. The Cooper Lounge, a cocktail bar that sits above the Great Hall, is getting new furniture and lighting fixtures, though its menu will be largely kept the same. 

One other notable change coming to the building isn’t part of the $11 million renovation: Brunch spot Snooze will be getting a new space, moving into the larger suite where Next Door American Eatery once operated. Work on its new location will kick off in September. 

artdeco scaled
Some of the custom art deco furniture featured throughout the hotel. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
cocktails scaled
The minibar featured in the renovated rooms at the Crawford. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
columbine scaled
The Columbine – Colorado's state flower – is now featured on Crawford bathrobes. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)
great hall scaled
The current status of the renovations in the Great Hall of Union Station. The long booths will provide seating for guests looking to enjoy a meal or drink. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)
lofts scaled
On the top floor of The Crawford Hotel are the loft rooms, featuring dormer windows. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
traindoor scaled
A bathroom in one of the units. The doors are meant to look like those of an old Victorian-era train car. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
view scaled
The view from one of the dormer windows in a loft unit, facing towards downtown. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)

The Crawford offers three types of rooms, with about “30 configurations” between them, Isenberg said. The starting price is $399 a night; the average room rate is $490. Suites start between $600 and $700 and go up to around $1,200.

On the second floor of Union Station are the “Pullman” rooms, reminiscent of old sleeper cars on trains. On the fourth floor are “the lofts,” which feature dormer windows and exposed beams that date to the original construction. In between on the third floor are the “classic rooms,” the biggest of them all with 16-foot ceilings and windows. 

Isenberg described his occupancy rate as a “bell curve” with its “shoulders” in the colder months. He said he tries to keep the hotel’s annualized occupancy rate in the “high 70s.”

“​​Sunday nights tend to be slow, right?” he said. “You don’t have a leisure customer and you don’t have a corporate customer and you probably don’t have a meeting customer.” 

Isenberg said he’s most excited for the upgraded gathering spaces: the Great Hall and The Parlour.

“I think it’s one of the greatest places to come and people watch,” he said.

A black-tie gala will be held July 13 to commemorate 10 years of the revived Union Station, along with other events happening over that weekend. Event organizers hope to raise $1 million for local nonprofits.

lead 1 scaled

Walter Isenberg stands in front of the original Union Station blueprints featured in the Crawford Hotel. He is finishing up most of the $11 million renovation to the hotel and complex next month. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)

Walter Isenberg is placing more dollars into Denver’s “town square.” 

The hotelier is putting the final touches on an $11 million renovation of Union Station, which largely affects the 112-room The Crawford Hotel within it.

“We’ve got people from all over the world, from all walks of life coming to use this space. And that is, I think, this quilt of humanity,” said Isenberg, CEO of Denver-based Sage Hospitality.

“We’re very excited about reintroducing it to the city.” 

The changes, which include a new lobby for hotel guests along with new and renovated eateries in the Great Hall, are the first major renovations to the building since 2014, when the train station dating to 1881 reopened after a $54 million renovation. The three-story Crawford Hotel was created as part of that project.

“It’s been an incredibly successful experiment,” Isenberg said. “We’re really proud of the fact that this in a way has become the town square in downtown Denver.”

Renovations for hotels usually occur every seven to 10 years, he said. The pandemic pushed the initial refreshing of the Crawford back several years. 

“We reserve money every single month, and put it away through that process, and those reserves are what we use to reinvest,” Isenberg said.

The latest renovations are expected to wrap up by the start of July, with the exception of a “refresh” starting in October to ice-cream spot Milkbox and the Pigtrain coffee company. 

A new lobby, dubbed “The Parlour,” has been added to give guests private elevator access to their rooms. The space will offer a welcome cocktail to patrons, feature live music on a regular basis and will assist guests in filling out their Denver itineraries. Every room in the hotel will be improved, with new custom art-deco furniture and 1,000 pieces of locally sourced art.

In the Great Hall, four new kiosks are being added. One will be a florist, and another will be called Baumé, serving champagne and dessert. The other tenants are still in the works. The Cooper Lounge, a cocktail bar that sits above the Great Hall, is getting new furniture and lighting fixtures, though its menu will be largely kept the same. 

One other notable change coming to the building isn’t part of the $11 million renovation: Brunch spot Snooze will be getting a new space, moving into the larger suite where Next Door American Eatery once operated. Work on its new location will kick off in September. 

artdeco scaled
Some of the custom art deco furniture featured throughout the hotel. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
cocktails scaled
The minibar featured in the renovated rooms at the Crawford. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
columbine scaled
The Columbine – Colorado's state flower – is now featured on Crawford bathrobes. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)
great hall scaled
The current status of the renovations in the Great Hall of Union Station. The long booths will provide seating for guests looking to enjoy a meal or drink. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)
lofts scaled
On the top floor of The Crawford Hotel are the loft rooms, featuring dormer windows. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
traindoor scaled
A bathroom in one of the units. The doors are meant to look like those of an old Victorian-era train car. (Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel/The Ingalls)
view scaled
The view from one of the dormer windows in a loft unit, facing towards downtown. (Matt Geiger/BusinessDen)

The Crawford offers three types of rooms, with about “30 configurations” between them, Isenberg said. The starting price is $399 a night; the average room rate is $490. Suites start between $600 and $700 and go up to around $1,200.

On the second floor of Union Station are the “Pullman” rooms, reminiscent of old sleeper cars on trains. On the fourth floor are “the lofts,” which feature dormer windows and exposed beams that date to the original construction. In between on the third floor are the “classic rooms,” the biggest of them all with 16-foot ceilings and windows. 

Isenberg described his occupancy rate as a “bell curve” with its “shoulders” in the colder months. He said he tries to keep the hotel’s annualized occupancy rate in the “high 70s.”

“​​Sunday nights tend to be slow, right?” he said. “You don’t have a leisure customer and you don’t have a corporate customer and you probably don’t have a meeting customer.” 

Isenberg said he’s most excited for the upgraded gathering spaces: the Great Hall and The Parlour.

“I think it’s one of the greatest places to come and people watch,” he said.

A black-tie gala will be held July 13 to commemorate 10 years of the revived Union Station, along with other events happening over that weekend. Event organizers hope to raise $1 million for local nonprofits.

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