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DIA officials hope to start Phase 2 of Great Hall Project next summer

Phase 1 of the project is on track for completion next year, and Phase 2 would include moving the south security checkpoint to Level 6 of the main terminal.

DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) officials said Monday that Phase 1 of the Great Hall Project is on track for completion next year and that they plan to begin Phase 2 construction next summer.

The Great Hall Project began work in July 2018 and has a $770 million budget to renovate the airport’s main Jeppesen Terminal to improve security and passenger flow, and to accommodate future growth.

"We are doing what we promised," said DIA chief executive Kim Day, saying the full project is within budget and on track for completion by 2024.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased the airport's passenger traffic, officials expect an eventual rebound to 70 million or 80 million passengers per year, in a terminal designed for 50 million.

The Great Hall Project is being done alongside the $1.5 billion Gate Expansion Program, which will add more than 30 gates and increase the airport's capacity by 30%. That project is also on time and on budget, Day said.

Phase 1 focused on Level 6 of the airport. In giving an update on progress on this phase, Michael Sheehan, DIA's senior vice president of special operations, said that there will be four new ticketing pods, upgraded restrooms, and 16,000 square feet of new space for passenger flow and security.

Included in the phase will be self-service check-in kiosks that Sheehan compared to self-checkout at a grocery store. Passengers can check in themselves and their bags by themselves, and a single employee can oversee multiple stations.

This phase was plagued by troubles early on, as DIA evicted the original contractor with the project about 25% complete. It sat mostly dormant for months, until this past spring, when Denver-based Hensel Phelps Construction was brought on to complete the work.

Sheehan said on Monday that Phase 1 is within its $195 million budget and will be finished by the end of 2021.

Phase 2 will include moving the south security checkpoint from Level 5 to Level 6, with 17 security lanes, improved technology to help speed up the security process, and a larger "repack" area for passengers who have cleared security. 

This would increase security capacity by five lanes, he said. The airport would keep A-bridge security and the north security checkpoint on Level 5, but with new security enhancements.

Officials said the north security lanes eventually will need to undergo similar enhancements as their counterparts on the south side of the terminal, but that's not part of the Great Hall Project.

The area on Level 5 that currently holds the south security checkpoint will be transformed into a meet and greet area, with new coffee, food and beverage options, officials said.

"It will no longer have that mall feel that the former developer had," said DIA chief of staff Cristal Torres DeHerrera.

DIA officials plan to keep contractor Hensel Phelps for Phase 2, which they say will save the airport millions of dollars and keep several hundred employees working through the pandemic.

The next steps involve presenting the plan to the City Council next month and, if approved, signing the contract in January.

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