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DIA: Work on grounded Great Hall project should take off again shortly after the new year

Dispute with contractor put project 2 years behind
Posted at 10:08 PM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 01:03:32-05

DENVER -- The overhaul of DIA’s main terminal is still grounded following a protracted, sometimes nasty public fight with the former contractor.

But, airport officials now have a renewed confidence that the project will be soaring again in mere weeks.

“Because of lessons learned, we’re back on track,” said Shellee Casiello, communications manager for the DIA Great Hall renovation project. “We’re bringing our contractors on-site. They’re reviewing the progress that’s been made. The materials that are on hand. We’re trying to have an air of transparency.”

The new contractor is Greeley-based Hensel Phelps.

The wings of the project were recently clipped when DIA terminated now former lead contractor Great Hall Partners after a protracted and sometimes nasty public dispute over costs and communication.

Getting around the airport at the moment can disorient even seasoned travelers, like Leigh Kahn, who got trapped in the maze.

“I will be taking the long route, I guess,” Kahn said after getting stuck on the north side of the main terminal when she was trying to get to the escalators to greet her dad getting off the train. “I think I can go around and back outside and then back in the through the other door. The improvements are going to be great, but we've lost the cross-functionality of the building."

MORE: Architect behind iconic Denver airport terminal: 'You’ve taken your front door and you trashed it'

The white aluminum partitions are becoming as iconic as the tent roof itself.

The $770-million Great Hall renovation project has been grounded since August.

“Having to terminate the contract with Great Hall Partners, it stalled out the project and we want to get it ramped up and going as quick as possible," Casiello said.

Troubles between Great Hall and DIA started nearly two years ago.

DIA blamed Great Hall for budget-busting cost increases and a lack of communication. Great Hall blamed DIA for micro-managing and constant change orders. There was even a 14-month dispute over bathroom fixtures and redesign.

The work should have been completed in 2021, but is now projected to drag on until 2024.

Hensel Phelps will take over as lead contractor next month and work should resume shortly after that.

"We looked at companies that had existing contracts with the airport. That we have an established relationship with," Casiello said.

In an effort to ease the pain, DIA has added even more ambassadors to help you manage the maze. And – they’ve added new floor decals guiding you to security and ticketing.

"Right now – getting around is really a problem for people,” said Kahn. “Especially people who don't travel a lot like at the holidays. My dad doesn’t travel very frequently and navigating the airport is not easy for him. He’s in his 80’s.”

The project is now cleared and should be back off the ground in mere weeks.

"The lack of confidence was earlier and now we feel like we have the right team,” Casiello said. “We're getting the right contractors in place and we're taking control of this - so we can get it done."

Casiello said the airport is still trying to settle with Great Hall for money the contractor spent on materials and work done to date.

It's still unclear what that number will look like, but DIA still plans for the entire project to come in under $800 million. The contract approved by city council is for $1.8 billion.