How a Denver development took flight

July 14, 2016

Earth Services & Abatement performs contaminated soil remediation work at the former Stapleton Airport. ESA’s demolition and remediation efforts here have spanned over 17 years. All photos courtesy Earth Services & Abatement
Earth Services & Abatement performs contaminated soil remediation work at the former Stapleton Airport. ESA’s demolition and remediation efforts here have spanned over 17 years.
All photos courtesy Earth Services & Abatement

by Paula Black and Kory Mitchell

The Stapleton Redevelopment project near Denver—a 16-year, $200-million endeavor—is still undergoing its transformation from an international airport to a thriving residential and mixed-use community. As the Colorado project progresses, final phases of asbestos abatement, demolition, and soil remediation are well underway.

The 1902-ha (4700-acre) site was home to the Stapleton International Airport in 1919, which became Denver International a decade later. However, as the area began to grow, city officials decided to close down the airport in Stapleton and move it to its present location, about 24 km (15 mi) east of the former site.

In 1990, the Stapleton Foundation was created. Five years later, it published the “Stapleton Redevelopment Plan” as the old airport closed. Commonly referred to as the ‘Green Book,’ this plan called for the establishment of jobs and open recreation spaces in a new mixed-use neighborhood. Approved by the Denver City Council in 1995, it served as the foundation for the work still taking place in the Stapleton community.

Greg Holt, the director of transportation systems at Denver International Airport and the program manager for Stapleton Redevelopment, has worked on the project since its inception. He has worked with the city and county for more than 35 years, and was the chief airport operations manager at the Stapleton Airport before its closure in 1995.

ESA performs soil remediation near Stapleton’s United Airlines training facility.
ESA performs soil remediation near Stapleton’s United Airlines training facility.

Holt has been involved with multiple stakeholders and agencies to ensure the redevelopment meets all the goals and regulations set in place. He also worked closely with the environmental remediation firm to see the demolition and asbestos abatement work was on schedule.

“The Stapleton Redevelopment Program is fortunate to have engaged numerous consultants and general contractors for both demolition and environmental remediation, and federal, state, and city agencies to achieve our goal,” Holt explained.

The firm is currently completing the last major landfill remediation on the Highline Canal, Phase II portion of the project. This area is approximately 34,404 m3 (45,000 cy) of landfill material from a 1960s-era landfill site. The firm is working concurrently on the former control tower abatement to make way for one of the new highlights of the redevelopment project, Punch Bowl Social—a popular bar, restaurant, and bowling alley. The company has performed the abatement and demolition of the Sand Creek Bridges, multiple hangars, and the abatement of the control tower. Additionally, they are responsible for over 914,400 m (1 million yd) of landfill and soil remediation.

For the project, buildings were demolished and contaminated soil excavated simultaneously.
For the project, buildings were demolished and contaminated soil excavated simultaneously.

When the project first went under contract in the 1990s, no one knew how much contamination would be encountered. Due to the landfill cleanups and soil remediation work, the contract work ended up topping out at more than $30 million. The work was not only fiscally rewarding, but also gave the company a new avenue of work as well.

Although work is not yet completed, the transformed airport site is already home to 20,000-plus residents.

Setting the standard

To date, the Stapleton project has included the demolition of more than 120 buildings, remediation of 50 site projects, and recycling of more than 200 million tons of concrete and asphalt.

“Initially, [the project] began with an environmental standard that would be used on the site throughout the program duration. The standard, called the Stapleton Numeric Criteria (SNC), was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State of Colorado, the city, and, later, the insurance company,” said Holt.

Holt said setting the SNC standard was important in the remediation efforts because it set the bar for the projects.

“The abatement and remediation firm has remediated numerous old landfills including sections of an old High Line Canal lateral that crisscrossed the Stapleton site,” said Holt. “The program remediated the airport-type of contaminated soil, which was due to jet fuel and deicing fluid. They have disposed of over a million yards of contaminated soil from these projects.”

The project is still ongoing, and will still require two to three years before all the land is transferred, and another six to 10 before the site is fully developed.

PaulaBlack_Headshot.HigherResPaula Black has covered the design and construction industry for years, specifically focusing on healthcare, education, sustainable buildings, and government/justice facilities. She has served as reporter, researcher, and managing editor, and has written hundreds of articles focused on building and design strategies.

Kory Mitchell is president of Earth Services & Abatement Inc., an environmental remediation and demolition firm in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions. Mitchell can be reached via e-mail at kory@esasiteco.com[1].

Endnotes:
  1. kory@esasiteco.com: mailto:kory@esasiteco.com

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