Five companies get $136 million to plug holes left by contractors fired from DIA renovation

DIA officials commit to transparency and oversight as they restart the Great Hall project that imploded earlier this year.
3 min. read
Construction work at Denver International Airport, Oct. 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver City Council on Monday OK'd about $136 million for a new project team tasked with renovating Denver International Airport's Great Hall.

In all, the companies have contracts with the city worth $159 million including previous work.

The decision follows major cost disputes between DIA and its original contractors, a consortium of companies known as Great Hall Partners. Those disagreements destroyed the controversial $1.8 billion public-private partnership formed in 2017 and pushed the project's completion back three years to 2024.

City Council members awarded new contracts to three local companies -- Englewood-based LS Gallegos & Associates, Aurora-based Sky Blue Builders and Denver-based Gilmore Construction -- and two multinational firms with local offices, Jacobs Engineering and Stantec.

The vote was 10 to 1, with Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore abstaining because her brother-in-law owns Gilmore Construction. Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca was absent.

The five companies will plug the holes left by Great Hall Partners and restart the renovation in January when a sixth company, Greeley-based Hensel Phelps, is expected to join the team accompanied by another major contract.

"It's for interim work since we're looking at the scope of the project and looking at the design and what (Great Hall Partners) has done so far," DIA spokeswoman Shellee Casiello said.

City Council members grilled airport officials on how the public can trust DIA this time around.

Council members Paul Kashmann, Kevin Flynn, Chris Hinds and Debbie Ortega -- who has a feather in her hat as the only member to vote against the doomed 2017 partnership -- asked DIA for assurances Monday night.

"I share with a lot of the public the same sort of anxiety that this will be the path forward that gets it done on budget and in less time," Flynn said.

Cristal Torres DeHerrera, one of the airport's vice presidents and chief of staff, told Denverite the new structure puts more control in the hands of DIA. The previous public-private partnership, or P3, gave the contractors -- who were also financiers -- more control.

DIA will build an online dashboard, possibly with budget-tracking tools and other visuals, so the public can follow along as the Great Hall project progresses, DeHerrera said.

"We are committed to a level of transparency that the city has never seen before on a project of this magnitude and we take that very seriously," said Cristal Torres DeHerrera, one of the airport's vice presidents.

No timeline exists for those commitments, but doing so "is in our best interest," she said.

Flynn called for a post-mortem on the whole public-private partnership thing, to which Denver now has an entire office dedicated.

"As a member of this council who supported going forward with the P3 back in 2017 and now being in a position of regretting that given the circumstances, I think it's very essential that before this Council is asked to support another P3 project, even outside the airport, that the airport produces a robust ... autopsy if you will on what went wrong and I would hope that it would examine our faults as well," Flynn said.

This article was changed to correct the amount of new money allocated, which is $136 million, not $159 million. The latter figure represents the total contract amount after Monday's vote.

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