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Delays, Disputes, and Drama: DIA’s Great Hall Project

 

Denver travelers (and taxpayers) have been waiting patiently for the completion of the Great Hall Project, “a renovation of the airport’s main Jeppesen Terminal to create an airport for the future with enhanced safety and security, a more intuitive passenger flow and increased capacity to accommodate continued growth.” Unfortunately, it looks like travelers will have to keep waiting as project costs have ballooned to over $1 billion. 

Below, a Denver construction dispute lawyer with Cotney Construction Law sifts through the controversy that surrounds Denver International Airport’s (DIA’s) Great Hall Project. Of note, we’ll discuss the developer on the project who was forced to go on the defensive after they were accused of causing delays — accusations that, as we’ll see below, may not paint an accurate picture of events. 

In the Beginning

It’s been nearly two decades since the opening of the DIA’s Great Hall. Knowing that updates would need to be made to accommodate the needs of today’s travelers, DIA entered into a 34-year contract with Great Hall Partners (GHP) in 2017 and construction commenced in July 2018. 

Their partnership lasted all of two years. 

Attempted Mediation 

Following months of escalating disputes stemming from delays — the largest being an anticipated 18-month delay due to issues with the concrete floor — DIA and GHP entered into mediation; however, efforts to reach a mutually beneficial resolution proved to be futile. 

Related: The Pros and Cons of Mediation  

Although mediation was not successful in this instance, it can be incredibly beneficial to disputing parties that are invested in seeing a project through to completion. Consult a Denver construction mediation attorney from Cotney Construction Law with any questions you may have regarding this alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. 

Parting Ways 

In August 2019, DIA and the City of Denver terminated their contract with GHP following projected overruns of $288 million on the $650 million project. DIA blamed GHP, citing costs and delays that did not align with requested changes. But as released documents reveal, DIA may have been the source of the delays all along. 

Related: Is a Construction Delay a Breach of Contract?

“The greatest substance is in a 248-page document, provided in partially redacted form, that recounts a two-year struggle over change orders. It repeatedly lays out examples of senior DIA staff members micromanaging the project’s designs and dithering on their decisions,” reports The Denver Post. It would seem that, over the course of the project, GHP encountered unreasonable change orders that resulted in the project’s delay. Among dozens of complaints cited by GHP, sources of contention on the Great Hall Project include: 

  • 14 months to settle on a restroom design
  • Four months to settle on materials to be used on the terminal’s walls 
  • Unavailability of the airport’s CEO
  • Inability to coordinate with other airport projects 
  • Failure on the owner’s part to disclose weak concrete

Change orders are inevitable in this industry. You never know when forces beyond your control will emerge to throw your project off track. Change orders are among the most common sources of scope creep, cost overruns, and delays, but they are sometimes necessary for ensuring that projects reach completion. Our Denver contractor attorneys recommend that your contracts always include language that clearly lays out how change orders are to be handled. If you ever find yourself in a situation where unreasonable change orders are threatening to derail your project, consult a Denver contractor lawyer from Cotney Construction Law. 

Related: Are Change Orders Costing Your Business Time and Money? 

The Fallout 

Following the contract determination, GHP sought over $288 million in associated costs — $166 million as a result of over two dozen change orders. As stated on the Great Hall Project’s own website

[DIN] will fund 100 percent of the project moving forward by refunding GHP’s investment in the project (approximately 25% of the construction cost) along with the lost return on their investment. In addition, the airport will pay for any outstanding invoices and costs related to work in place and materials procured, as well as certain termination costs related to contracts issued by GHP. 

Because DIA owns the plans and work performed to date, they were able to move forward with a new contractor, and that’s exactly what happened once the Denver City Council approved $130 million in contracts. Renovations to the Great Hall are now expected to be completed in 2024. 

Related: Can You Afford a $19 Million Dispute?

What to Take Away 

At Cotney Construction Law, our team of attorneys is all too familiar with the issues that plagued the Great Hall Project. A Denver construction litigation attorney is often brought in on cases involving delays, breach of contract, and finger-pointing. While our attorneys are adept at guiding clients through the litigation process, we’d like to help contractors and construction companies avoid litigation altogether by presenting and resolving disputes long before they are brought before a judge. 

Not only can a Denver construction lawyer negotiate, draft, and review your contractors to ensure that potential concerns such as mounting change orders are accounted for, but they can also employ ADR methods in the event that a dispute emerges. If your company is engaged in a high-profile construction project, partner with the team of attorneys that’s dedicated solely to the construction industry. For all of your construction-related legal needs, partner with a Denver construction attorney from Cotney Construction Law. 

If you would like to speak with a Denver construction dispute attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.