After more than 18 months of planning and fundraising, Metro CareRing broke ground May 14 on its new Hunger Relief Center at East 18th Avenue and Downing Street. GH Phipps Construction Cos. is building the 15,000-sq-ft center.

Visualization by Norris Design / Design by Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture

During the event, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock revved up a bulldozer brought in for the occasion to “bulldoze hunger”—but not the building. Construction began in early June, with completion expected in early 2015.

The $3.4-million project replaces a cramped and deteriorating building constructed in the 1950s. The new facility, designed by Denver’s Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture and located on the existing site, will more than triple the space for Metro CareRing’s growing list of services, including a free “shopping” market, case management to teach self-sufficiency and job readiness, warehouse and loading dock, a food preparation area, nutrition education center, classrooms, gardens, a greenhouse, and recycling and composting facilities.

The nonprofit provides services in the seven-county metro area, with an emphasis on distributing fresh food through its free market.

The demand for services has skyrocketed since Metro CareRing moved into the current facility in 1999. Then, the nonprofit offered 22,000 services annually; Metro CareRing says the number of services grew to 133,000 annually by 2013.

The lead donor on the project is the Anschutz Foundation, at $1 million, and the City and County of Denver contributed $590,000. GH Phipps has been committed to helping Metro CareRing since the firm was awarded the job, including providing weekly volunteers as well as donations raised through in-house fundraising patterned after the reality TV show “The Biggest Loser.”

During construction, Metro CareRing will operate out of space in St. Paul United Methodist Church, 1615 Ogden St.