The city and county of Denver has hired Hensel Phelps Construction as design-builder for the long-delayed expansion of the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. The $233-million project will add a terrace and event space on the center’s roof, upgrade the main lobby and build a new 80,000-sq-ft multi-use room, among other improvements.

The start of the project has been delayed for more than 18 months because of a bid-rigging scandal that surfaced in December 2018. The city shut down the contractor-selection process and terminated a $9-million contract with Dallas-based developer Trammell Crow, its program manager on the job, alleging that the firm had wrongly released project documents to Mortenson Construction, one of the contractor finalists.

City officials also claimed that “improper discussions about the bidding process” took place between Mortenson and Trammell Crow and that project plans had been altered.

Mortenson has since settled with the city and agreed to pay the state of Colorado a $650,000 fine and donate construction services for a coronavirus-related project, in a settlement totaling more than $1.3 million. No final agreement with Trammell Crow has been announced.

The expansion project was originally targeted for completion in 2022. Now city officials estimate that work won’t begin until the middle of next year, at the earliest, with completion targeted for late 2023, according to the city’s Dept. of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The delay has become even more significant with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This spring, the convention center was transformed into a temporary overflow hospital, with hundreds of beds awaiting possible COVID-19 patients. The facility has not treated anyone yet, and remains empty, but the state has leased it for use as a field hospital until the end of the year, which could further delay the start of expansion work.

Hensel Phelps already has multiple projects underway with the city, including a $195-million contract for the first phase of renovation on the Great Hall in the main terminal at Denver International Airport, after the airport fired its P3 contractor from the project last year. That work is scheduled for completion in late 2021.

The Greeley, Colo.-based contractor also landed a $175-million contract to perform horizontal infrastructure work on 110 acres at the National Western Complex in north Denver. The project replaces all roads, utilities and infrastructure, realigns multiple rail lines, along with site grading and excavation to support future NWC projects.