A “Major League” Team Effort

Dick Monfort, Chairman and CEO of the Colorado Rockies baseball franchise, still spends a great deal of time at Coors Field.  Except nowadays he can be spotted outside the confines of the ballpark.  His focus is on the team working on what was once a vacant parking lot across 20th Street from the stadium, diligently constructing McGregor Square, an 860,000 square foot mixed use project a baseball-throw away from the Major League venue that helped spawn modern-day LoDo. 

Mr. Monfort readily admits to not being a fan of heights, and when asked what his choice job might be on a construction site, he turned down the possibility of operating a crane hundreds of feet in the air.

Dick Monfort, Chairman and CEO of the Colorado Rockies overlooks McGregor Square construction site.

“I’m not a big ‘heights’ guy, so I’d have to say no to the crane!” he made clear when asked what his “dream construction job” would be in a recent Q&A.  He spoke candidly about McGregor Square and the construction team building the office, residential, hotel and retail spaces that will further elevate the downtown Denver lifestyle. 

He did, however, point out his admiration for the some of the true artisans on the site, along with his respect for the architects, contractors and subcontractors at work on a daily basis to deliver McGregor Square to the people who love the city, the Colorado Rockies and experiencing all the great things LoDo has to offer.

What are some of the things you admire most about the design and construction industry?

The way the team “drags” the vision out of people is amazing to me.  The design and construction professionals need information “now” so they can make sure things work ahead of time and avoid delays and changes.  When they were working on pouring the second floor of a building, the team was already seeking answers to questions about the 12th floor. There is a lot of envisioning involved.  To get where we want to be, the team was able to take our vision and put it on paper so that the engineers, architects and construction professionals could make it all line-up and make everything look that way we want things to look.

What has been the most challenging part of building McGregor Square?

Probably the amount of advanced notice and the questions that were being asked far in advance of the work that was yet to be done.  There is an incredible amount of planning and coordination taking place, and nobody wants to make a mistake and add unnecessary costs.  Everyone worked together to sort out problems and keep everyone on the same page.  Everyone on the team understands the times we’re in and we all want McGregor Square to be a special place the people who live and visit here can celebrate and take joy in once it’s complete.

What has been the most pleasing part of building McGregor Square?

That is yet to come.  It’s great to watch McGregor Square take on a character as windows are installed and brick is laid.  Seeing what years of planning is creating is fascinating and very rewarding.  All of the people working on the project have forged strong relationships based on the pride of sharing a common goal.  The “secret sauce” of the project has been the belief throughout the team that McGregor Square belongs to all of us.  

Keli McGregor played a professional and personal part in the history of the Rockies.  What part did Keli play in the vision for McGregor Square?

McGregor Square starts to go vertical.

Keli had tremendous attention to detail.  What was important to him during the design and construction of Coors Field became important to the fans.  For example, the openness of the stadium and the fact that you can see the playing field even while you’re buying snacks on the concourse is something Keli wanted.  The open feel isn’t something you find at other ballparks.  Wrigley, Fenway are historic monuments, but you have to get to the seats before you can see the game.  McGregor Square will have the same open, inviting atmosphere of Coors Field, which is something I believe Keli would want.

What would be your dream job in the construction industry?

I’ve always admired the artistry and creativity of laying brick, so I’d have to say being a brick mason.  Brick is a major part of the character and charm of Coors Field, and it will be equally engaging at McGregor Square.

Designed by Stantec and being built by Hensel Phelps, the $250 million project is scheduled for completion in January 2021.  It will include a 13-story residential building with more than 100 residences including 450 square-foot studios and spacious 6,000 square-foot penthouses, a 174 room luxury hotel, a 205,000 square foot office building, 70,000 square feet of retail and outdoor spaces and two stories of underground parking.  

McGregor Square is intended to be a year-round gathering space, where people can shop at retail destinations — including the recently announced addition of Denver’s classic Tattered Cover bookstore – dine at a variety of restaurants and a food hall and enjoy the 25,000 square foot public plaza that will feature a grass berm for concerts, movies and festivals.

For a project of this size, magnitude and schedule, it was critical to put together the right team for the job.  This meant being selective in-regards to the quality, safety and cost competitiveness of each team member.  Everyone involved had to have the horsepower necessary to handle the workload of designing and building three distinct towers simultaneously, while also diversifying the group enough so that no individual company was stretched too thin.

“There are four very unique construction projects actively underway: the garage and site improvements, the hotel, the office building and the residences, and each required a specialized team of professionals,” said Kurt Seeman, Operations Manager for Hensel Phelps.

“We wanted to field a team that could handle the work and the aggressive schedule. A lot of effort has gone into making decisions and planning ahead so that everything is well coordinated and running efficiently.  It’s a testament to the entire team that everything is running so smoothly and that we’re ahead of things so that we can avoid any errors now or in the future.”

Work began in January 2018 with a focus on preconstruction, planning and trade partner procurement, leading up to a groundbreaking in October 2018.  Lightning Ventures, a Colorado company specializing in all aspects of earthwork and truck hauling, spent the next four months running approximately 9,000 truckloads of dirt out of the ever-growing hole in the ground (amounting to approximately 3.3 million cubic feet of soil, the equivalent of roughly 165,000 tons).  Two-stories down into the ground, the garage space accounts for a full city block.  Coggins & Sons, another Colorado-based company, then handled the shoring and installed the deep foundations.  Approximately 250 piers were drilled 45 feet down
to bedrock.

Concrete Frame Associates (of Colorado) was put to work to build a 350’x350’ concrete podium.  Once the podium was in place, the three buildings were ready to go vertical and more team members joined the jobsite.  Among the “new players” were three more Colorado companies, M-Tech Mechanical, which is responsible for the mechanical and plumbing systems in all three buildings, Encore Electric, which is installing the power, lighting and low voltage for the buildings and Frontier Fire Protection, which is installing the fire suppression systems that  serve all three buildings.  In fact, many of the systems are inherent
to all three buildings.

With so much work happening concurrently, each building – the hotel, office and residences – were assigned a different company to construct the  concrete structuers.  Rago Enterprises, with an office in Denver, handled the hotel, and Hensel Phelps (Colorado) oversaw the residential concrete and Concrete Frame Associate was responsible for the office building.  Since each of the buildings has a distinct use and design, it was important to diversify.

Ground view of all three buildings at McGregor.

As the buildings took form in concrete, the exterior skin elements of framing, sheeting, brick and glazing could be added.  Soderberg Masonry (you guessed it, of Colorado) handled much of the brickwork at Coors Field and was the logical choice to do the same at McGregor Square.  Two more Colorado companies, Harmon, Alliance Glazing and Metropolitan Glass were selected for their expertise, as were Midwest Drywall and Phase2 (all from, yes, Colorado).  Midwest Drywall was responsible for the interior and exterior framing and sheathing of both the hotel and residential buildings, Phase2 did the office building. Metropolitan Glass was in charge of the glazing for the hotel and residences, from the third floor up.  Harmon Glass installed all of the unitized curtainwall on the office building and Alliance Glazing was responsible for all of the glass installation on Level 1 and 2 of all three buildings.  All three of the buildings have benefitted from the installation of metal panels by Gen3, which keeping-to-the-theme also has a Colorado location.

Working together, the team was able to make any necessary course-corrections without greatly affecting the overall schedule of work or the timing of each individual trade. They have maintained the critical path based on the flexibility of everyone involved.

“It’s great to be part of a project like this,” said Seeman.  “We are all working together for a tremendous organization.  We know this is an important extension of Coors Field as well as a fabulous addition to LoDo and the Denver skyline, and we all take a great deal of pride in the role we are all playing.”

“Everyone who is working on every single facet of the project can visit it years from now and share with their kids and grandkids that they built McGregor Square,” summed-up Monfort.  

Author: Paul Suter, Suter Media Relations
Photos: All photos featured are courtesy of Hensel Phelps