By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – City leaders officially kicked off construction for the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center Wednesday. It comes nearly six years after the $233 million project was approved by Denver voters.

(credit: CBS)

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“These investments are about building back better. It’s about setting up Denver for not only today, but for the future,” said Mayor Michael Hancock.

On Wednesday, Hancock was joined by representatives from the City of Denver, Denver Arts and Venues, Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), Visit Denver, and contractor Hensel Phelps. After several members shared their excitement about the renovations, the group ceremoniously raised a metal beam to kick off construction.

With limited real estate in the area, many of the new features will be built atop the building, rather than expand its footprint on the ground. One of the main fixtures of the project will be a new outdoor rooftop terrace with views of the mountains. 

“That rivals any view anywhere in the country,” said Janice Sinden, Visit Denver Board Chair.

Improvements will also include a new 80,000 square foot multipurpose room, as well as upgrades to the lobby and technologies. In total, the expansion amounts to about 200,000 square feet.

(credit: CBS)

“This additional space will allow us to book some meetings that have outgrown our city, that need more space,” said Rachel Benedick, executive vice president of sales and service for Visit Denver. “What it will also allow us to do is stack business… it’s about all size conventions and layering those in and creating consistent compression for our hotel community.”

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In late 2018, Denver halted this process after two companies were accused of breaking bidding process rules. The City and County of Denver later agreed to receive $4.5 million from each of those companies, Mortenson Construction and Trammell Crow Company.

More than a year after that situation, the pandemic brought conventions and gatherings to a standstill. According to Janet Sinden with Visit Denver, it resulted in $1.2 billion in economic impact for convention center business and hotel meetings booked by Visit Denver.

“There has been no industry that has been more impacted than our hospitality community because of COVID,” said Benedick. “What this tells our community is you don’t have a lot of hope, we just brought you hope.”

Benedick said Denver can anticipate generating an additional $85 million in annual economic impact due to the expansion.  On Wednesday, Hancock and other leaders also said the project will result in “as many as 2,000 new direct hospitality jobs as well as nearly 2700 construction jobs.”

(credit: CBS)

“We’re going to be employing new construction managers, carpenters, laborers, and more,” Hancock said.

According to a city release, funding for the expansion includes $104M from Measure 2C, passed by voters in 2015, and $129M in Certificates of Participation (COP) issued in 2018, with repayment of the COPs derived from Tourism Improvement District revenues, a portion of the seat tax and excess revenues from the Convention Center Hotel.

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Construction is scheduled to wrap up in late 2023.

Conor McCue