Potential delays, cost overruns at DIA become issue in Denver mayoral race

DENVER -- FOX31 has confirmed that developers associated with the Great Hall renovation at Denver International Airport have indicated the project could be delayed until 2025, with the project potentially costing at least $300 million more than originally thought.

During Thursday's mayoral debate in Denver, the issue became a topic between incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock and challenger Jamie Giellis. The runoff between the two is on June 4.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be dug into immediately," Giellis said during the debate.

Hancock said the issue appears to be with the concrete at DIA, which was put in place when the airport was built about 30 years ago.

"This is a situation with the concrete and thank God we are doing the project," Hancock said.

Hancock indicated the city is still doing its own analysis on the concrete issue to determine the severity. The city has not yet approved any additional financing.

"If we have an abnormality at the airport, we need to move and address it. The safety of everyone at the airport is our number-one priority," Hancock said.

The construction project has been going on for nearly a year.

"If they had gone in and done very specific structural testing in those areas, they might have found the problems early on," said University of Denver Professor of Real Estate and Construction Management Dr. Eric Holt.

"Part of it is somewhat surprising to me... that they didn’t do some structural testing beforehand," Holt said, "And that’s a question right now: whose due diligence did not get done?"

The airport presented the developers, Great Hall Partners, with the structural information about the concrete for the time the airport was built.

It's possible some of it wasn't tested until the renovation progressed to this point.

Giellis brought up the question on everyone's mind: Will this cost taxpayers?

"We cannot let the taxpayers foot an astronomical bill for a project that is really about building a shopping center at the airport," Giellis said.

Hancock explained that would not be the case.

The Great Hall renovation is funded through the Airport Enterprise Fund and not through the city's general fund.

Parking fees, airline charges, and rents from restaurants and retail space contribute to the enterprise fund. DIA is estimated to be a billion-dollar business each year.

"Let me very clear. At no time will taxpayers pay a penny for the Great Hall or operation at the airport because it's against the law. The airport is an enterprise fund," Hancock said.

Great Hall Partners sent FOX31 a statement that reads:

"Great Hall Partners is engaged in ongoing conversations with DEN about the forecasted delay, possible mitigation efforts and potential costs, which we anticipate will reach a conclusion by the end of the summer. Throughout this process, we continue to work closely with DEN to deliver the Great Hall project to the City of Denver and its community. We are grateful that our team has been entrusted with this project by DEN and the City and County of Denver. "

And Denver International Airport released this statement:

"Any estimates regarding cost increases and schedule delays shared with media are not DEN’s estimates and have not been validated. Any estimates provided to the airport will be vetted thoroughly by the airport and its independent experts. As with any project, estimates reflect one perspective and do not mean that the airport agrees with them. The airport is entering into mediation with the contractor, and a number of issues will be resolved during that time. DEN is obligated - as is the contractor - not to disclose documents relevant to the mediation, and DEN will honor its obligations.  We have hired independent outside experts to provide us with an analysis on these complicated engineering issues and estimates so that we can ensure the airport and city are protected and that we are making the right decisions for this community and fully intend to hold this contractor to its commitments."

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