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Denver officials announced Thursday they want to hire PCL Construction Services to renovate the 16th Street Mall, bringing an end to a years-long bidding process on a project meant to reinvigorate a major part of the city’s economy.
The contract with the Denver-based company should be finalized in the next few weeks before it’s sent to City Council for approval, Department of Transportation and Infrastructure spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said in a release.
This will be the 16th Street Mall’s first renovation since it opened in 1982, Denver Department of Finance spokeswoman Julie Smith told The Denver Post
“It is now nearly 40 years old and had an original estimated life span of 30 years,” Smith said. “So we have outlasted that projection fairly substantially.”
The project is expected to take about three years and while the contract isn’t yet finalized it could cost up to $150 million, Smith said. Not only will the entire granite streetscape be replaced, but the work will also consolidate bus lanes in the middle of the mall, expand sidewalks and create “amenity zones,” which the plans show will be where existing kiosks and miscellaneous small businesses go.
“We’re thrilled to have reached this latest milestone on this landmark project that improves safety and mobility along the Mall and attracts commuters and visitors with interesting new spaces and places for people to enjoy,” Eulois Cleckley, director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in the release.
The renovation is expected to create about 1,500 jobs, generate $107 million in wages and benefits and some $261 million in sales, Smith said. In all, the project is estimated to add about $3.7 billion to the regional economy over those three years.
That cash would be a much-needed boon for the Denver economy, which lost more tax revenue during the pandemic than the first year of the Great Recession. While the final totals won’t arrive until March, Smith said the city expects a budget shortfall of $220 million for 2020 and a $190 million gap this year, prompting deep budget cuts and unpaid furloughs for city employees.
During the recession, large-scale construction projects kept the local economy afloat and helped Denver rebound relatively quickly, Smith said. City officials are hoping the 16th Street Mall renovation does the same.
The facelift is considered a long-term investment in the 1.25-mile stretch, which requires about $1.5 million in annual pavement upkeep and raises about $75 million in tax revenue each year for the city, Smith said.
Multiple council members have questioned whether certain city funds could be diverted to more urgent needs during the pandemic, a particularly common refrain after the George Floyd protests this summer with the council’s more progressive members calling to move money for policing to other city departments and services.
But the funding for the 16th Street Mall renovation project is dedicated, meaning it can’t be shifted elsewhere, Smith said. The money comes from a mix of state, federal and local sources, including the $1 billion Elevate Denver bond measure approved by voters in 2017. If the money set aside for the renovation isn’t spent on this work, it’s lost, she said.
About 60% of the renovation design is already done and PCL Construction will finish the rest, Smith said. The company might break ground later this year, but the bulk of the construction is expected to take place in 2022.
Updated 11:40 a.m. Jan. 21, 2020 This story has been updated after the city of Denver clarified that the project could cost up to $150 million.