'Absolute Necessity' Says Kevin FlynnBy Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Recounting a recent trip through Denver International Airport, Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn joked that navigating the controversial Great Hall project in the airport’s terminal was “like a corn maze at times” with some hallways ending in what he called “a box canyon.” In a more serious moment, Flynn shares that he believes it’s critical a deep dive investigation is conducted into what went wrong with the Great Hall project so the same mistakes aren’t repeated in the future on another similar project.

(credit: CBS)

“We have to learn from the errors that happened here or there will never be another P3 (public private partnership) in this city. We need to fully understand what happened, who did what, where did we trip up. I want to see engineers brought in, construction managers brought in to examine it. I want to see top to bottom where did it fall off the cliff,” he said.

No such “lessons learned” investigation is imminent according to the Denver City Attorney’s office and airport executives. Stacey Stegman, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the airport, told CBS4 DIA CEO Phil Washington “is a big believer in lessons learned. I can’t speak for him, but it’s likely, when the time is right, he will push to understand what transpired with the Great Hall P3.”

Jacqlin Davis, a spokesperson for the Denver City Attorney’s office, told CBS4, “We are not aware of any lessons learned inquiries happening on the Great Hall project.”

However, CBS4 found the city attorney’s office did spend nearly $80,000 in 2019 and 2020 to hire outside lawyers who interviewed people involved in the Great Hall project. Pages of invoices obtained by CBS4 under the Colorado Open Records Act show attorneys preparing and conducting numerous interviews regarding the Great Hall Project although interviewees are not identified in the documents and no written summaries or reports of those interviews were ever produced.

A look at the Great Hall Project under construction at Denver International Airport

A look at the Great Hall Project under construction at Denver International Airport (credit: CBS)

Davis told CBS4 the law firm, Hogan Lovells, “was retained to provide legal advice following termination of the Great Hall contract. That advice was provided directly to city officials and city attorneys in several privileged briefings. There was no written report or summary generated by the firm.”

Flynn said he understands the outside lawyers scope of work was legal analysis and advice, “but we can’t let that substitute for the fact that no actual lessons learned report has yet been produced… that can be made public. You can’t have the people who come after you learn anything from what happened and what went wrong unless you document it and unless everyone gets to see it.”

The Great Hall project started in 2018 and was supposed to be finished by 2021 at a cost of $650 million. It was beset by problems from the start. Concerns about the strength of the concrete in the terminal, coupled with change orders from the airport, led the initial developer, Great Hall Partners/Ferrovial, to project a $311 million cost overrun and a projected delay of as much as three years.

(credit: CBS)

In August 2019, Denver terminated the renovation contract with Ferrovial. The project has since been scaled down, but is still years behind schedule.

Flynn told CBS4 he is urging city and airport administrators to undertake a lessons learned investigation “as soon as possible.”

“I don’t know if they are committed to it fully, but I will continue to push them to do it. It matters to me that it gets done,” said Flynn.

Brian Maass