Denver International Airport plans the US$1.3bn completion of its Great Hall Project

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Denver International (DEN) has entered the final phase of its Great Hall Project, which will increase the capacity of the airport’s Jeppesen Terminal to 100 million annual passengers by adding a new security checkpoint and additional check-in areas, at a cost of US$1.3bn.

The new security checkpoint will be located on the northeast side of Level 6 and is intended to improve safety for passengers. With the completion of this second checkpoint, both the checkpoints on Level 5 will be relocated to Level 6. This will enable DEN to add more screening lanes, increasing capacity by more than 60%.

The additional check-in areas will be built on the south end of Level 6 for all remaining airlines, not just United, Southwest and Frontier. These modular spaces will provide greater flexibility for airline expansion and other changing needs in the future. The project will also include renovation of restrooms and replacement of flooring, lighting, elevators and escalators. These improvements are expected to save DEN approximately US$200-250m in maintenance costs over 10 years. Alongside these updated passenger facilities, meet-and-greet spaces for domestic and international passengers will open on Level 5.

To help build a future skilled workforce for the airport, DEN is also creating its Center of Excellence and Equity on Level 4 of the Westin Denver International Airport hotel. The center will focus on educating and providing opportunities for young people who are interested in and passionate about careers in aviation as well as engaging students who are under-represented in the industry.

The proposed budget for the Great Hall Completion including contingency and the capacity for DEN to meet all the Terminal’s needs is US$1.3bn and will not be funded with taxpayer dollars, but rather by revenue generated at the airport. The proposed Great Hall Completion plan must first get approved by Denver City Council. If this phase is approved by Denver City Council in January, the Great Hall Completion would begin work in late 2022 and is expected to be complete between spring 2027 and summer 2028, with sections opening along the way. The airport has confirmed that a more definitive timeline will be determined once the design stage is complete.

The announcement of this phase comes on the heels of the completion of Phase 1, which constructed new ticketing/check-in spaces with self-bag-drop units for United and Southwest passengers in the center of terminal. Currently, Phase 2 of the Great Hall Project is under construction and will be complete by mid-2024, with the checkpoint completed in the first quarter of 2024. Hensel Phelps is the contractor for Phase 1 and 2 and would be the contractor for the Great Hall Completion under this proposal. The first two phases will be completed within the US$770m budget that was established at the start of the current Great Hall construction work.

These additional improvements to the Jeppesen Terminal are projected to create 6,500 direct jobs, 500 indirect jobs, 1,300 induced jobs and 54,000 additional apprenticeship hours. Additionally, the community will be offered training and job opportunities once the project is complete, and when DEN’s Center of Excellence and Equity in Aviation opens.

Phil Washington, CEO of DEN, said, “Fully building out the Great Hall Project now is the responsible thing to do and is crucial to DEN’s future success. It is essential that we continue the work we have started to better protect our passengers, upgrade our aging facility and prepare it for the future. We are recovering quickly, and our growth will continue to be robust over the next 10 to 20 years. Time is of the essence and these improvements must happen now before it’s even more expensive and disruptive to passengers.”

“We have made a number of changes from what was proposed when the Great Hall Project was originally conceived,” added Washington. “While there is still a need to provide food and services for travelers, no one should mistake this as being a shopping mall. This project is about making sure DEN is ready for 100 million annual passengers. We cannot afford to fall behind and we owe it to our community to do the right thing for this airport.

“I understand that additional years of construction isn’t what many want to hear, but the most difficult work is behind us. This last phase of construction will be less impactful than the previous phase of construction in the center and we will open sections along the way as work is completed. We will do everything possible to make this a better experience for travelers.”

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