Plaza be­gins ris­ing from the Platte River

Long-de­layed project hits a sym­bolic mile­stone

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jon Mur­ray

A new river­front plaza at Den­ver’s Con­flu­ence Park is be­gin­ning to take shape as crews lower 25,000-pound pre­cast con­crete steps into place at the edge of the South Platte River.

It has taken nearly two years to reach that sym­bolic mile­stone in the long-de­layed project. Work stalled for more than a year af­ter the dis­cov­ery of coal tar buried on the river’s west bank.

But a city parks of­fi­cial says the $9.3 mil­lion project, which re­sumed in Au­gust, fi­nally has a clear path ahead.

Con­trac­tors, led by ECI Site Con­struc­tion Man­age­ment, are aim­ing to fin­ish the plaza and new ramps for the South Platte Trail by late sum­mer or early fall — keep­ing to the city’s re­vised time­line and bud­get re­leased in July.

“From this point on, passersby are go­ing to con­tinue to see more plaza com­ing up and out of the river,” said Michael Bouchard, the as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for de­sign and con­struc­tion for Den­ver Parks and Re­cre­ation. “It’s a crit­i­cal point for us, be­cause it means we’re past some of the crit­i­cal deep-foun­da­tion is­sues.”

The city set out to re­place Shoe­maker Plaza and decades­old bike ramps near the REI flag­ship store, while im­prov­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity to the area and adding land­scap­ing.

The plaza project’s bud­get last sum­mer shot up by 86 per­cent af­ter of­fi­cials and con­trac­tors fin­ished grap­pling with how to safely re­move pock­ets of the coal tar. The sub­stance is a byprod­uct of gasi­fi­ca­tion com­mon in in­dus­try a cen­tury ago, and for a time, it was buried in patches along the river.

The so­lu­tion has been to re­move the tar and treat all wa­ter on the site be­fore it’s pumped over metal bar­ri­ers that have held back the river since spring of 2015.

In the end, crews found coal tar in a small por­tion of hun­dreds of cu­bic yards of dirt moved on the site, Bouchard said.

“It was a big ques­tion mark,” he said. “That was the tricky part. We had to as­sume and plan for the worst, and hope as we got into it that things were bet­ter than we thought. And that’s how it’s played out so far. Cer­tainly, some was found.”

But with the plaza’s foun­da­tion dug out, he said, it’s un­likely crews will find much more.

The next chal­lenge the con­trac­tors face is to fin­ish in­stal­la­tion at and below the shore, where wa­ter is be­ing pumped out, be­fore heavy spring rains re­turn in three or four months. This year’s changes to the project in­cluded us­ing pre­cast con­crete for most of the lower por­tions of the plaza — a rounded sec­tion of wa­ter-level steps still will be poured on site — and Bouchard says that will cut time spent “in the river” by three-quar­ters.

Pedes­tri­ans and bi­cy­clists also have had cur­tailed ac­cess to Con­flu­ence Park, where Cherry Creek flows into the river, be­cause of two other projects that the city says should be done in com­ing months.

The city has pushed back un­til Fe­bru­ary the com­ple­tion of a project to re­build the trail on the river’s east bank, which was dam­aged by spring flood­ing in 2015.

An­other plaza on the river’s east side that serves as a main en­trance of sorts to Con­flu­ence Park also has been fenced off for a pri­vate de­vel­op­ment project. In the spring, Bouchard said, de­vel­op­ers of a 35-story, high-rent apart­ment build­ing called The Con­flu­ence — which topped out this week — will re­open that plaza to the pub­lic af­ter fin­ish­ing work to con­nect the park to the tower’s grounds.

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Work con­tin­ues this week on the trick­ier-than-ex­pected project at the new river­front plaza at Con­flu­ence Park.

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