Words by Eric Peterson
A sign in front of the ever-changing urban infill project at Colorado Boulevard and Interstate 25 reads: “A New Colorado Center: Evolving 2016.”
That’s been the case more years than not since Colorado Center’s first stages of redevelopment in the 1980s. The last three decades have seen a remarkable transformation from an industrial area to a transit-oriented office and entertainment district anchored by two towers and an entertainment center.
In the JE Dunn Construction trailer, the DNA for the site’s next phase of evolution of Colorado Center is on a whiteboard. Project Manager Matt Ascherman points to quadrants on the board labeled “To Do,” “Doing” and “Done.” The “Done” third is plastered with yellow Post-it Notes, as the stragglers in “To Do” and “Doing” migrate to the right. Ribbon cutting is slated for early December.
Rewind a year and a half: The $60 million project broke ground in June 2015. Beyond ground-level retail and restaurant space, the first seven floors are parking, the next eight are Class A office space, and the 16th level offers a rooftop terrace and enclosed event venue.
Nearly 300,000 square feet in all, the building, while predominantly precast, includes a significant amount of glass curtain wall. After lots of coordination on the front end, it’s a sprint to the finish for the trades. “Once you get the structure complete, it’s a shotgun go for everybody else,” says Ascherman.
That happened in late February. Since then, the all-union crew has hovered between roughly 120 and 200 workers. “We’ve had a lot of close coordination with the trades council filling that labor gap,” says Ascherman.
“Logistics is always a challenge,” he adds. “We’ve got a lot of neighbors and traffic with a bus station and light rail. It limits our access. You don’t really want to get tangled up with pedestrians.”
Ascherman gets one question a lot. “People always ask, ‘Why no tower crane?’ The nature of precast is it’s big and heavy,” he says. “The capacity of the project didn’t lend itself to a tower crane.”
Another project challenge: people – pedestrians, moviegoers, commuters, office workers. “We’re right across from Dave & Buster’s, we’re right across from the movie theater,” Ascherman says. Tower I is full, Tower II is full. There’s a lot of general public to keep separate from. In this context, “knowing when the next X-Men movie’s coming out” becomes critical for scheduling, he laughs.
Mechanical included a pair of “two really heavy rooftop units,” says Ascherman. The crew used precast cranes to get the 32,000-pound units on the roof. “That’s a long reach for the crane,” he says.
Also on the roof, the terrace features tree planters, a trellis and a fire pit, with an enclosed structure that’s home to event space that opens up by way of a NanaWall, a fireplace and a fully equipped catering kitchen.
“That wasn’t in the original plan,” says Ascherman of the rooftop venue. “They had this awesome roof with great views of the entire Front Range. You can see the Flatirons all the way down to Pikes Peak.”
Ascherman says the Tower III project also includes “a large site package” centered on building a connection between the tower and the entertainment complex. “The new concept is a ‘Main Street’ that goes from the front of the tower to the front of the movie theater,” he explains.
Scott Halpin, associate principal at Tryba Architects in Denver, says a 300-unit residential tower could soon be on the way. “We’re working through cost issues,” he says. “It will really complement the TOD. It’s a huge, huge piece. As the sign says, ‘Live, work, play.’ ”
He sees a ripple effect from development along light rail and other transit lines in metro Denver. “Everybody in Denver is going to benefit from these TODs,” explains Halpin. “They’re starting to develop.”
Lincoln Property Co. Senior Vice President Scott Caldwell says it’s the spine of the evolving development. “The whole development was predicated upon the live/work/play, and taking advantage of the location, with access to transit, and trying to cultivate the new office out there today with the millennials.”
Likewise, the open layout of the office space is emerging as the market norm. “More often than not, tenants are asking to tear the ceilings out so they have more space,” says Caldwell. “So that’s what we built.”
The goal: a more open workspace that cultivates connectedness and collaboration.
The lobby, he adds, is “designed to be inviting.”
In this case, Class A means class, and lots of it. “It’s in the details,” says Halpin. “It’s like buying a car. It’s the difference between a Subaru and an Audi.”
Halpin highlights the finish work in the lobby, sunscreens on the building’s south side, and subtleties in the precast. The last of the three “adds character,” he says. “The precast has a nice warm tone to it.”
The extra expense pays off in the form of better visibility – in a highly visible location. “You can see the design of the tower when you look up and down the I-25 corridor,” says Halpin. “The building itself will stand alone because of the design quality.”
He commends the project team. “From my standpoint, after being in this business for 40 years, we’re really lucky,” Halpin says of working with Lincoln and JE Dunn. “It’s a good team. It’s fun. My anxiety level is almost nonexistent.” \\