What is the Great Hall Project?

More than two decades after opening, the Great Hall beneath the iconic tented roof of Denver International Airport’s (DEN) Jeppesen Terminal will be updated to address today’s aviation needs through a project that will greatly enhance security, improve passenger flow and return the terminal to a passenger oasis. The Great Hall project will include upgrades for the entire Jeppesen Terminal, including escalators and elevators, restrooms and other infrastructure that is now more than 24 years old. 

These renovations will allow the airport to recapture the original spirit of the terminal as a relaxing and vibrant experience, via new shops and restaurants, enhanced technology, ample seating and more.

Why is this project needed?

With the growth DEN is experiencing and the aging infrastructure, we must plan for the future. The facility is starting to age and is in need of major maintenance and upgrades. The Jeppesen Terminal was built to serve only 50 million annual passengers, and we served over 64 million passengers in 2018. Currently, TSA checkpoints are at capacity. The airport also has an underutilized and inefficient ticket lobby space and is lacking the adequate amount of concessionaires to accommodate projected passenger growth.

What are the benefits of this project?

Although DEN remains the country’s youngest commercial airport, no one could have predicted how security and technology would fundamentally change the aviation industry over the last two decades. By investing in a modern airport terminal, we will elevate the overall passenger experience and enhance security in a way that adapts to today’s global challenges. The Great Hall project will provide the following benefits:

  • Enhancing security by relocating exposed checkpoints
  • Increasing TSA throughput
  • Increasing checkpoint capacity to accommodate future growth
  • Improving utilization of airline ticket spaces and increasing check-in counter space
  • Creating a new meeting/greeting area at the south end and adding a “front door” from the plaza to the airport, including a children's play area and flight information displays
  • Creating a new international passenger welcome center with seating, food and retail
  • Improving food and retail offerings
  • Improving curbside area for increased passenger drop-off capacity, including an express drop off location adjacent to TSA checkpoints for passengers without checked bags

What will happen with the TSA checkpoints?

The Great Hall project will greatly enhance security by moving today’s exposed TSA screening checkpoints from level 5 to level 6, and create a new prototype for TSA that will increase passenger throughput. Today, DEN has 30 standard checkpoint lanes that accommodate about 4,500 passengers per hour. The Great Hall project will include 34 state-of-the-art automated screening lanes, which can each serve an estimated 8,500 passengers per hour. The new checkpoints, which will be consolidated from three areas of the terminal into two, will feature increased queuing space for both normal and irregular operations. The Great Hall project is designed to make the security screening process more efficient and less stressful for travelers.

Additional highlights of the new security checkpoints include:

  • Entire area is enclosed and less exposed
  • Purpose-built corridor allows efficient K-9 operations
  • Scanning of boarding pass generates a queue assignment (so that passengers are called to join the security line in smaller groups to improve flow)
  • Each pair of lanes has an entry area where you validate ID and queue with a small group
  • Allows TSA to generate “risk based” assignments
  • Provides the flexibility to change lane profiles.

How will this project affect access to concessioners and retail for non-ticketed passengers?

There will be retail and concessions on both the secured and unsecured sides. The public space will be a retail-oriented with a meet and greet space , restaurants and areas to wait and enjoy food and drink.

How will the airport accomplish this project?

To achieve the vision for a revitalized terminal, DEN is participating in 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. Benefits of a P3 include:

  • Provides opportunity to collaborate with private sector firms, incorporating their creativity, expertise and capital
  • Leverages private sector capital
  • Great Hall Partners and the airport share operational and financial risk
  • Shortens project delivery time at a lower cost
  • Guarantees price and schedule for the project.

What is the structure of contract with the Great Hall Partners?

DEN is utilizing a P3 model that leverages the creativity, expertise and capital from the private sector to help reimagine the layout and use of the terminal. This type of project delivery method helps control costs, speeds up construction and lessens the financial risks to the airport. DEN will remain in control of the airport, while Great Hall Partners will manage certain concessions and maintain defined areas of the terminal. The project will involve four years of construction plus an additional 30 years of operation and maintenance support from the Great Hall Partners.

The Great Hall project is structured with clear roles and responsibilities for both the Great Hall Partners and the airport, including:

Great Hall Partners Responsibilities:

  • Contribute a combination of equity and debt to the project
  • Design and build the project
  • Assume risk for price and schedule
  • Operate the concessions on Levels 5 and 6

DEN’s Responsibilities:

  • Pay for part of construction costs through our Capital Fund
  • Split the concession revenue 80 percent to DEN, 20 percent to Great Hall Partners
  • Reimburse Great Hall Partners for operations and maintenance costs during the operational period
  • Repay the Great Hall Partners’ investment and give them the ability to generate a profit.

Will private companies own parts of the airport?

The Great Hall Partners will not own any part of the airport. In the agreement, the Great Hall Partners are responsible for constructing all the improvements but managing only the terminal concessions. The airport will maintain control over the airline ticket lobbies, security screening area and public circulation areas. 

How were the Great Hall Partners selected?

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. As a result of that process, the airport identified four teams that were shortlisted to bid on a final Request for Proposals for the project. Three firms responded to the airport’s Request for Proposals and the Great Hall Partners were selected to enter into a pre-development agreement. City Council approved the final Development Agreement with the Great Hall Partners, allowing the project to move forward into final design and construction, on Aug. 14, 2017.

Who are the Great Hall Partners?

The Great Hall Partners include a very qualified group of local, national and international firms with experience in P3s and airports, including:  

Equity Partners:  Ferrovial Airports International Ltd., JLC/Saunders joint venture, which includes Saunders and Magic Johnson Enterprises & Loop Capital
Design & Build partners: Ferrovial Agroman and Saunders Construction, Inc.
Architects: Luis Vidal + Architects, Harrison Kornberg Architects and Anderson Mason Dale
Local Engineers/Contractors: Intermountain Electric, Civil Technology, Gilmore Construction, Sky Blue Builders
Equity Partners Legal Advisors: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Financial Advisor: Citibank

Why were the Great Hall Partners chosen?

The Great Hall Partners were selected because of their long-term vision for the terminal and their proven track record of completing similar airport projects (i.e., Heathrow Airport). They demonstrated a strong understanding of operations and maintenance activities and offered a robust plan for managing the project, including how they will be responsible for their own due-diligence. The Great Hall partners also have the financial ability to successfully partner with the airport over the 34-year term of the contract.

How much will the Great Hall project cost?

The anticipated cost to design and build the project will range from $650-$770 million, which includes an airport-added contingency of $120 million to accommodate unexpected issues or changes in TSA or airline processing in the next few years. Great Hall Partners will make a total investment of $378 million and be paid back over time through a combination of payments from the airport (for operation, maintenance and financing costs) and a 20 percent share of the concession revenues from new shops and restaurants. DEN will keep 100 percent of other revenues derived from the terminal in spaces that the airport develops. The total project cost, which includes design, construction, operations and maintenance for 30 years, is capped at $1.8 billion.

Will taxpayers be responsible for this construction in any way?

DEN is an enterprise of the City and County of Denver, so no taxpayer money is used from the city's General Fund for any projects or operations at the airport.

What happens to the existing ticket counters when construction begins? How will it affect passengers?

The construction of the project will take place in phases so that there will be no delays in service to passengers. Passengers will need to pay attention to signage and notifications of changes to locations for ticket counters so that when they arrive at the airport they are not delayed. Because of construction, ticket counter locations may shift temporarily, but proper signage and communications will be provided to the public.

Has this ever been done before in other airports?

Yes, mostly in Europe, Australia, Heathrow, Netherlands, Poland and locally at LaGuardia. They are not exactly the same, however, because in some of these instances parts of the airport were privatized, in DEN’s case the City and the airport still maintain the ownership and the private partner is in a long-term lease.

How many jobs will the Great Hall project create?

The Great Hall project is expected to create 400-450 construction jobs, more than 800 permanent jobs and generate an additional $3.5 million in annual taxes and general fund revenue for the City of Denver. All of DEN’s current job postings are available online at jobs.flydenver.com.

Will concessionaires still get to compete for contracts?

The Great Hall Partners were granted an exclusive license to develop and manage terminal concessions and will contract directly with individual concession operators. The agreement requires that 70 percent of concession locations must be competitively procured; so existing concessionaires will have the opportunity to bid on concession opportunities in the terminal area.

When does construction start and how long will it last?

The terms of the deal call for four years of construction, starting in summer 2018, followed by 30 years of operations and maintenance within specific areas of the terminal by Great Hall Partners. After obtaining City Council and Mayoral approval, DEN and the Great Hall Partners (GHP) began working on design. Construction began in July 2018. As the design progresses, DEN will be working with its partners and key stakeholders to incorporate their feedback, finalize their individual leaseholds, and jointly develop the detailed phasing strategy that minimizes operational disruptions. DEN is focused on achieving the best customer experience possible during all phases of the project. While most construction starts with a construction wall going up that stays in place through the duration, that is not how this project will proceed. There will be a series of distinct phases of work in different parts of the terminal. This means construction walls will be moving, and passengers will have different experiences at different times during the construction. DEN is committed to communicating with all passengers, airlines and tenants, so they know what to expect. The initial plan calls for the project to be completed in four main construction phases. Phase one of the project will primarily focus on work in the middle, east and west, including airline ticket lobbies, baggage claim areas, and the food court (which will be demolished). Phase two will focus on the south end, with similar ticket lobby and baggage claim area work. Phase three will move to the north, preparing for ticket counters and for the conversion into new passenger security screening area. The final Phase will entail work in the tented space of the terminal on level 5, along with median and curbside work on level 6 on both the east and west sides of the terminal.

How can I learn more about the project?

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