Denver International Airport - DIA

Denver International Airport.

Following an ugly breakup with its former contractor, Denver International Airport will soon pass the baton to a new construction company to restart the renovation of its Great Hall.

The deal with Hensel Phelps, which could cost up to $195 million, was advanced on Wednesday during a Denver City Council business committee hearing and heads to the floor of the full council later this month. If approved, Hensel Phelps in early March will pick up where former construction contractor, Great Hall Partners, left off: on phase one.

“While the Great Hall to date has not gone exactly as we had planned it, we are committed to completing this project in a responsible way,” airport CEO Kim Day said at the committee meeting.

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Only a quarter of the work in the project’s first phase has been completed, said Michael Sheehan, DIA’s senior vice president of special projects.

What remains includes expanding the sixth level’s ticketing check-in area and constructing new airline ticket counters; widening the balconies that overlook the airport’s atrium to make room for passengers to access future sixth-level TSA security checkpoints; upgrading the escalators; and adding four new restrooms split between the east and west side of the building.

The contract term would run from March of this year through the end of 2021, and any unspent funds from the $195 million contract would be reverted to DIA.

Day said she is “confident” that the entire project will be completed in 2024, an answer Councilwoman Deborah Ortega was eager to hear.

“We’re all really anxious to get these improvements finished,” Ortega said.

DIA officials said a new project timeline and scope of work will be announced by this summer. To help keep Hensel Phelps accountable and on schedule, the company will be held to its deadlines and penalized if they are missed.

“We want to get this project done as quickly as possible,” airport chief of staff Cristal DeHerrera said. But as the project moves fast, she said, it’s also important “to move right.”

The original budget for the project has been left unchanged, at $770 million, Day said. That figure includes a $120 million contingency fund.

Meanwhile, DIA is still finalizing fallout payments with former contractor Great Hall Partners. The airport is required to reimburse the company for money it spent on the project for work already completed. Great Hall Partners funded 27% of the project, and the airport covered the rest.

So far, the airport has paid out roughly $128 million to the contractor, including more than $90 million for Great Hall Partners’ investment in the project and nearly $38 million for the return on the contractor’s investment that its owners would have received over the 34-year life on the contract.

Airport management estimates the total termination payment could cost up to $210 million.

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