Denver International Airport ends contract with Great Hall developer

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DENVER — Denver International Airport canceled the contract with the developer Great Hall, LLC on Tuesday.

The termination will be effective November 12, 2019, according to documents obtained by FOX31. That date is 90 days following the date of delivery of the Notice of Termination.

“I’m just sorry that we had to make this change,” DIA CEO Kim Day said at a press conference Tuesday.

Day said the decision was a based on a variety of reasons — including cost overruns and safety issues.

“They should have made safety their priority,” Day said.

Day refused to say hiring Great Hall was a mistake. Instead, she said large-scale airport projects sometimes encounter obstacles.

“We did not make a mistake,” Day said. “While we had hoped we had picked someone who would be the right partner for us, there were mitigating circumstances, including the concrete.”

The $650 million-plus project is not being paid for with taxpayer dollars. Instead, it is paid for with airport profits, such as those from airline and parking fees.

The airport is expected to pay Great Hall and undetermined amount to break the contract, which sources say will likely be in the millions.

The Great Hall project was supposed to be done by late 2021. That is no longer the case as the city needs to find a new contractor and get them approved by City Council.

“No there is no way we could be back on that timeline,” Day said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Great Hall Partners sent the following statement to FOX31 and Channel 2 via a public relations firm:

“We are disappointed with DEN’s decision and strongly disagree with their characterizations of how we have arrived at this point.  We categorically reject their allegations around safety and change directives.  As a firm, we have among the best track records in the world for adhering to the highest standards for safety.  Indeed, the concerns we raised over concrete that was weaker than initially represented by DEN, were an important part of our safety analysis.  In fact, the project contractor has a “recordable incident rate” of almost half of the national rate and has a zero “lost time injury rate.”

Unfortunately, until this point, confidentiality provisions in our contract prevented us from rebutting over the last several weeks a stream of unfounded complaints and allegations.  The reality is that the Project’s time and cost overruns are a direct result of the discovery of weak concrete in some areas of the Terminal, which DEN did not disclose to GHP at the outset of the Project, and more than 20 large-scale, badly timed and unnecessary change directives issued by DEN to the design they had previously approved.

As DEN itself said in its press conference today, our Company has extensive global experience in successfully delivering major projects such as this on time and on budget.  We would have preferred to work with DEN to bring this important project to successful fruition and believed with thoughtful intervention that this was still possible.  We wish the people of Denver well and are committed to a professional and smooth withdrawal.”

Last month, FOX31 reported the city and county of Denver threatened to terminate its contract with the developers in charge of the massive renovation project at Denver International Airport.

First, the document cites a fire the developer allegedly caused on June 20 in the construction work area.

“The fire was caused by Developer’s failure to take proper safety precautions for its hot demolition work,” the document states.

READ: DIA’s notice of non-compliance to Denver Great Hall LLC

The letter also accuses the developer of engaging in “unsafe and unprofessional construction practices that put its workers and airport passengers at risk.”

Additionally, the letter to Great Hall states that escalators have been out of commission for more than one month, which has disrupted airport activities.

The news comes after Great Hall publicly releasing a report citing how the project could be delayed until 2024 over a belief the current concrete at DIA lacks enough structural integrity to carry out the design plans for the airport’s renovation.

FOX31 previously reported how delays could cost more than $300 million.

Saunders construction sent the following statement:

“Saunders Construction is proud of our work to date – and the efforts of all of our partners – on the Great Hall project. We are committed to a seamless and professional transition of work to DEN in the coming months.

Saunders remains ever-focused on providing top-notch client service while delivering premier projects in an honest, timely and safe manner. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve as the construction partner to many leading projects throughout the region. We sincerely value the continued trust we have formed with our partners, including DEN and the City and County of Denver, as well as the broader community.”

Passengers say the decision is a frustrating development.

“Construction is a very tenuous situation at best,” said Chris Barr, who flies in and out of DIA four or five times a year for business. He says he has been coming to Denver for more than 30 years.

He says the unfinished construction site with nobody to be seen Tuesday was a bizarre sight.

“It’s interesting to see a ghost town with no one there and a lot of equipment a lot of unfinished projects,” Barr said.

The city has not provided a timeline for hiring a new contractor.

“I only have 11 years left to work,” joked Barr. “So I’m hoping to see this finished by the time I retire.”

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