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2013 Top Project Starts in Mountain States Show Healthy Mix of Public, Private Work

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The list of the biggest projects to begin construction last year across the Mountain States bucks a national trend toward more private-sector work and a decline in public-sector starts. It also signals at least a temporary lull in new megaprojects across the five-state region. A surge of residential and commercial projects has helped to offset weaker levels of nonbuilding starts as many of the region's large highway and water projects have been recently completed.

Rendering by MHTN Architects, courtesy of Okland Construction
The University of Utah George S. Eccles Student Life Center in Salt Lake City, being constructed by Okland, will include dozens of recreation amenities.
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The 2013 starts list contains a healthy mix of infrastructure, energy, commercial, health care and institutional projects, many of them rising along the region's new highway and transit corridors—recently completed or still under construction in major urban areas. Salt Lake City and Denver led the region in construction growth last year, up 11% and 8% respectively, over 2012 levels, according to McGraw Hill Construction's Dodge. Both cities also are among the current national leaders in creation of new construction jobs.

Topping the 2013 starts is a $530-million natural gas conversion of the Cherokee Combined Cycle Plant in Denver. Kiewit Power Construction is leading rehab work on the 570-MW powerplant, which the contractor says is 50% complete. Also high on the list is another powerplant conversion: TIC's $114-million construction of a new air-quality control system for the Pawnee Power Plant, a 505-MW, coal-fired generating facility in Brush, Colo.

Major transit work continues across the region, drawing with it the promise of more transit-oriented development, including strong multifamily, office and hospitality sectors.

"When the revamped Denver Union Station (DUS) project opens on May 11, people will be shocked to see all that's going on around here," says Phil Washington, general manager of Denver's Regional Transportation District. Kiewit's $500-million transformation of Union Station into a multimodal regional transportation hub has brought to the lower downtown area up to $1 billion worth of new projects, Washington says.

Several projects on the 2013 Top Starts list—including the $45.4-million Triangle Building, the $44.9-million Balfour at Riverfront Park and the $44.1-million renovation of the Union Station interior into a boutique hotel and retail complex—are key parts of the DUS transit-oriented development. Work is ongoing on the city's Eagle P3 East Rail Line, which will connect downtown with Denver International Airport.

RTD also began work in 2013 on the $350-million I-225 Rail Line, a 10.5-mile light rail extension being built by Kiewit in Aurora. It will link RTD's Nine Mile Station with the planned Peoria/Smith Station and the East Line. Kiewit is building eight light rail stations and eight bridges, including a 350-ft-long bridge over Mississippi Avenue, as part of the I-225 project.

Other key 2013 projects include Mortenson's phased construction of the $165-million, 675,000-sq-ft Charles Schwab Colorado Campus in Lone Tree. At full build-out, the campus will be able to house up to 4,500 employees on the 38-acre site. Mortenson is also building the $112-million Woodward Lincoln Avenue office and manufacturing campus in Fort Collins.

The health care, multifamily, mixed-use building boom continues with PCL's 250 Columbine project, Haselden's Steele Creek and Milender White's 16M, all in Denver. GE Johnson is constructing the $118-million St. Anthony North Health Campus and the Craig Hospital renovation, both in the Denver suburbs.

The region's transportation departments, while not building the massive projects of years past, will be busy with corridor improvements, including CDOT's Interstate 70 Twin Tunnels widening, U.S. 6 Bridges replacement project, I-25 widening and ongoing work in the U.S. 36 corridor between Boulder and Denver.

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