Denver International Airport is making progress on picking a construction company to finish the first phase of a major renovation project that’s on hiatus after the airport fired its first contractor.
But DIA's divorce from Great Hall Partners might not be final in mid-November, as officials originally expected.
“We are confident Great Hall Partners will be able to turn the site over to us by Nov. 12, however negotiations and the official ‘close out’ may still be ongoing at that time,” airport spokeswoman Emily Williams said in an email to Colorado Politics on Thursday.
The airport announced that it was cutting ties with the contractor, a consortium led by Spain’s Ferrovial Airports, two months ago amid mounting concerns about safety, cost overruns and delays in the anticipated end date of the $650 million project.
Key features of the renovation include relocating security checkpoints from Level 5 to Level 6, improving the check-in process with more space and new ticketing kiosks, and adding areas for passengers to relax, shop and dine.
The airport aims to choose a company by the end of the year to pick off where Great Hall Partners left off, and construction is expected to resume in the first quarter of 2020, Williams said. The airport solicited proposals from “on-call” contractors that have standing contracts with DIA; aviation officials are now in the process of interviewing three contractors that responded, she said.
“We are confident that one of the on-call contractors will be able to complete Phase One,” she said.
The first phase consists of tearing down the structures in the center of the terminal and building new ticket lobbies.
But the later phases of the project could require another contractor — and the details of those phases could still be tweaked. DIA will know more once the next contractor is on board, Williams said.
“We’ll probably be looking at where we can be more efficient (rather than cutting amenities),” she said.
The project was initially slated for completion in 2021. But, by the time DIA announced it was ending its relationship with Great Hall Partners, that end date had been pushed to 2025.
Williams said the airport is “very confident” that the project can be finished in the next five to six years “if not sooner.”
Great Hall Partners said in August that the delays were caused primarily by weak concrete that was discovered during construction and "more than 20 large-scale, badly timed and unnecessary change directives” made by airport officials that were contrary to the approved design plan.
What the airport will have to pay to sever ties with the contractor is still a question.
In August, the amount that the airport owed Great Hall Partners to reimburse the consortium for its financial contributions to the project was pegged at about $200 million. But Williams said on Thursday that sum hasn’t yet been decided.
“DEN will fund 100 percent of the project moving forward by refunding GHP’s investment in the project along with the lost return on their investment,” Williams said, using the airport's official three-letter ID code. “In addition, the airport will pay for any outstanding invoices and costs related to work in place and materials procured, as well as the termination cost – all of which is still being negotiated.”
The Denver Post, which broke the news that the contractor divorce might not be final next month, reported that an independent rating agency has estimated the termination payment will likely amount to $140 million to $180 million. Plus, the rating agency estimated that DIA owes the contractor roughly $70 million more to settle debts with its lenders, the Post reported.
In addition to the $650 million budget for the project, DIA has also identified $120 million in reserves that can be spent if the project cost rises, Williams said.