The Great Hall: Then and Now
When DEN opened on Feb. 28, 1995, the Great Hall was a key part of the overall passenger experience. The area featured lounge seating, abundant trees and other foliage, and a relatively small footprint for security just prior to entering the train platforms that transport passengers from the terminal to the concourses.
Just six and a half years later, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks forever changed the airport experience in America. In November of 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created and had a profound impact on airport security operations. The TSA implemented new types of security checkpoints on a far larger scale than ever before. That operation required the physical footprint of security screening operations to grow. At DEN, that meant overtaking some of the public areas that once housed sofas, chairs and a relaxing environment with a security operation that today includes large screening equipment, more staff and longer line queues.
While the safety of passengers remains the airport's No. 1 priority throughout its operations, the Great Hall was transformed from its original design and intent as a place to relax and enjoy the iconic airport terminal. Today, passengers undergo the screening process in an open area that may make some people feel intimidated or uncomfortable. It's also noisy, and often gives visitors the impression that the lines are longer than they actually are, because the queues are so visible.
The Great Hall Vision
The Great Hall project aims to embrace a new, modern airport experience through three main areas of improvement: consolidating the airline ticket counters and consolidating and relocating the TSA screening areas to level 6; modifying the baggage handling system in and under the terminal to support the relocated ticket counters; and redesigning the shopping, dining, and overall passenger experiences available in the terminal.
Redeveloping the flow, design and use of the Great Hall could have several benefits for the travelling public and the airport:
- TSA checkpoints will be moved out of the Great Hall and into another location, most likely near the underused airline ticketing counters on level 6, allowing for a new type of security checkpoint that is more efficient and less exposed
- Keeps Denver competitive with other airports around the world that are investing in better passenger facilities through improved wayfinding, passenger processing, security, shops and restaurants
- Enhances how travelers experience Denver's front door by creating a more balanced, relaxing atmosphere with high-quality passenger amenities
- A better mix of dining and shopping options for passengers and visitors in the terminal
- Improves the overall check-in, baggage-drop and security screening process
- A more robust commercial program that generates non-airline revenue, which helps keep landing fees low and can lead to lower fares
- Maximizes the life of the Jeppesen Terminal before it reaches capacity and requires expansion
- Integrates the new south entrance to the terminal via the RTD A Line and the Westin Denver International Airport
To achieve the vision for a revitalized terminal, DEN is pursuing a public-private partnership (P3) model that seeks the creativity, expertise and capital from the private sector to help reimagine the layout and use of the terminal. P3s involve the use of private capital for publicly-owned infrastructure. At the same time, DEN is working closely and collaboratively with the TSA to design an innovative new security screening prototype that is more efficient and passenger friendly and could someday become a model for other U.S. airports. The P3 model is used to deliver major projects across the globe because it transfers many of the financial risks to the private sector, often speeds up project delivery and leans on the expertise of private firms that have experience working on specific types of projects around the world. The P3 model allows us to leverage the expertise and resources (financial and technical) of the private sector to share both the risk and the reward.
The airport began a robust, fair and highly competitive procurement process in January 2015 by reaching out to the private development community for qualified partners. The airport then released a Request for Qualifications, which sought teams with the financial capacity and credentials needed for a project of this scale. An evaluation panel, as well as independent technical and financial advisors KPMG and O’Melveny & Meyers, led DEN in August 2016 to select Ferrovial Airports International Ltd. to enter into exclusive negotiations as part of the pre-development phase of this project. Ferrovial is the second biggest investor in transport infrastructures in the world and it has successfully executed on major P3 projects. It has performed successfully on a number of major projects in Europe and the U.S. and Ferrovial Airports has invested in 32 airports across the world including Heathrow. Ferrovial and its partners in this effort include a very qualified group of local, national and international firms with experience in P3s and airports:
In August 2016, the Denver City Council and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock approved a pre-development contract between DEN and the Great Hall Partners. Through the first quarter of 2017, DEN will be working with Ferrovial to develop a final development agreement to bring back to the City Council and the mayor for consideration. During this pre-development phase of work, we will be identifying the exact scope, financial model and designs for this project that address several key components:
Create a strong commercial vision, customer service amenities and a unique experience for all DEN passengers and visitors
Improve the airport welcoming and check-in experience
Relocate TSA screening from the Great Hall
Address customer flow through the new Westin Denver International Airport
Facilitate modernization of the airline customer kiosk lobby[AC4]
Improve the baggage receiving and handling system under the new ticket counter locations
Create a plan for thoughtful phasing of construction to minimize airport disruptions
Develop a quality concessions program that includes a wide range of food, retail and services, featuring a balance of local and global brands