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Extreme makeover — water utility edition

Denver Water is redeveloping its near century-old operations complex in preparation for the next 100 years.

Phase one of Denver Water's operations complex redevelopment is complete with four more efficient, sustainable buildings added to the complex.

The older we get, the more likely we are to take a hard look at ourselves and ask what we can improve. Are we living a healthy lifestyle? Could we do our daily tasks differently? Are we in need of a makeover?

Denver Water is really no different as we approach our 100th birthday. We regularly look in the mirror to ask ourselves if we are being the best water utility we can be. Just look at our Vision Statement.

One component of this self-examination is a complete overhaul of Denver Water’s 34.6-acre site in downtown Denver, called the Operations Complex Redevelopment. It’s like our own extreme makeover.

“Our current buildings are outdated, inefficient and can’t support the future demands of providing water service to the community,” said Brian Good, chief administrative officer at Denver Water. “This project helps us take major steps forward in efficiency, sustainability and accessibility, so we can continue to provide outstanding service to our customers.”

The average age of buildings on the current site is 55 years, with the oldest boasting 130 years of service. The project, which started early last year, includes recently finished fleet, warehouse, trade shop and meter shop buildings that house more than 150 employees supporting Denver Water’s day-to-day operations. The next phase of the project will feature a new, six-story administration building for more than 600 workers, along with a wellness building and a parking garage, all scheduled for completion in late 2019.

The redeveloped complex also includes an emphasis on sustainability, incorporating LEED certification and leading-edge concepts around the management of all water sources.

Workers move into the new fleet building on Denver Water's operations complex. Lighter colored floors to reflect light and skylights are two of the many sustainability features in the new buildings.

“We anticipate this being the most sustainable large complex that’s ever been built in Colorado,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “We’re working to update Colorado’s water regulations to what we’ve seen on sustainability projects both internationally and in other states. We’re bringing the technology behind those projects to Colorado.”

RNL Design is on board as the project architect, with Trammell Crow Company serving as the owner’s representative and Mortenson the general contractor.

The $201.9 million project, which is part of Denver Water’s capital plan, will be debt-financed over time to ensure minimal impacts to ratepayers. Additionally, proceeds from a green bonds sale, which can only be sold to finance an environmentally responsible project, will be used to help finance the project.

“We view ourselves as more than a water utility,” Lochhead said. “We are a water resource manager, and we understand we have a tremendous responsibility to our customers, to our community and to the environment. This is one of many projects we’re working on that we believe will create a resilient future for everyone concerned.”