A key segment of Denver’s National Western Center campus upgrade is now on indefinite hold after the city on Feb. 16 stopped the process of the private-public-partnership it was seeking to develop a 60-acre parcel known as the Triangle.  

The private-sector partner would help build a new exhibition hall, replace the aging Denver Coliseum with a new 10,000-seat arena and restore a historic 1909 building in exchange for the right to develop 42 of the 60 acres in the southeast part of the NWC campus.  

The P3 solicitation process had advanced to two shortlisted teams—the Macquarie-led  Triangle Collective, and Plenary Cordish Saunders Triangle Partners—before Denver Mayor Hancock put the project “on pause” last May.

With the city’s tourism and hospitality sectors reeling from the effects of COVID, and tax revenues down as a result, the city would not be able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for its share of an agreement. Officials said they would monitor risk and revenues and revisit the estimated $520-plus million project at the end of 2020.  

However, the city officially pulled the plug on the P3 this week, announcing in a news release that it had “formally halted the process to identify a private partner to design, build, finance, operate and maintain future Phases 3-8” (aka, the Triangle). The city added that “construction of Phases 1 and 2 will continue to move forward on campus.”  

Meanwhile, construction underway elsewhere at the NWC may get help from the city’s recent decision to issue $274 million in voter-approved revenue bonds.

The bonds, which still need to be approved by city council, will support $175.8 million worth of ongoing work at the NWC campus and provide $98 million for expansion of the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. The city council will consider approving the issuance of bonds later this month.

Infrastructure Moving Forward

Horizontal infrastructure work is ongoing at the NWC campus and recently achieved a major milestone with the relocation and consolidation of nearly three miles of railroad track that previously bisected the campus and prohibited access to the South Platte River. Also, Colorado State University is underway with all three of its NWC buildings, a project collectively known as the Spur.

NWC Master Plan

The city set a new course for the National Western Center campus after the National Western Stock Show, frustrated with its aging facilities and infrastructure, considered a move to nearby Aurora in 2011. After laying out a vision for the entire 250-acre campus, the NWC master plan was approved by the Denver City Council in March 2015.

Then Denver voters passed a measure later that year to authorize funding for Phases 1 and 2 of the master plan. The original plan consisted of eight phases, which were consolidated into two, with Phases 1 and 2 combined into the current construction, and Phases 3-8 identified as the future P3 development in the Triangle.

Marcy Loughran, chief communications officer for the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center, said the city will work with the National Western Stock Show, CSU and all partners on the campus, which also includes History Colorado and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, to look at different ways they can revisit the plan for the Triangle.