Words by Eric Peterson
Granite Place at Village Center is on the leading edge of a new breed of office towers in Denver’s southeast suburban market.
Due for core-and-shell completion in March and occupancy by summer, the 10-story, 300,000-square-foot Class AA office tower broke ground early last year, and features a slick “corporate living room” on the ground level and a 1,000-space parking structure. The trapezoidal floor plate is designed for maximum flexibility, as it’s a speculative project, not a build-to-suit.
The 5-acre site in Greenwood Village – just east of Interstate 25 and south of Orchard Road – has been owned by the Koelbel family for decades. With easy access to light rail and the interstate, the area is emerging as a fertile, transit-oriented node.
Cody Cowan, Confluent Development’s construction manager, says access to light rail “is what people are looking for these days. That’s what all the brokers are looking for.”
That means speed to market has been key.
“Our biggest challenge is the schedule,” says Steve Mortenson, senior superintendent at GE Johnson. “It’s 13 months to build a $50 million project … If we stubbed our toe on glass or fixtures or anything else, there’s no way this would have happened.”
The dirt work was extensive, he adds. “We had to pipe in tens of thousands of yards of structural fill.” Balance that with three cranes and the lot suddenly became very tight, necessitating more coordination than usual.
Implementing pull planning on the job allowed for that, says Mortenson. “You finish one operation and it’s literally just minutes until the next one comes in,” he notes.
Another challenge has been “the shortage of skilled craftsmen in the Colorado market,” adds Brian Parr, GE Johnson’s project manager for Granite Place.
Regardless, the project has run like clockwork.
Blake Mourer, principal of Open Studio Architecture in Denver, says his firm has had a terrific working relationship with Confluent. In the last five years, Open Studio has designed The LAB, TriZetto’s headquarters, and several other projects in the Denver area for the developer before taking on Granite Place.
“We got real familiar with the site and what it would yield,” says Mourer of Granite Place. “What we found was this would be a pretty darn good site for office.” Granite and Confluent “liked the fact they could have a lot of density in a small footprint.”
Because it’s a spec project, “We’ve got to right-size the floor plates and the building overall,” he adds. “We’ve done this before, but having a true column-free plate was really important to us,” he adds. “We pushed for it.” The million-dollar question: “How can we eliminate all of these end-cap columns to create long-term flexibility?”
The facade features different shades of precast concrete with a surprising amount of glass in floor-to-ceiling curtain walls, he notes. “They wanted it to feel timeless.”
Granite’s three-tower office development in Plano, Texas, Granite Park, offered a template. “One of the big features they had a lot of success with was this ‘corporate living room,’ ” says Mourer. “It’s really an amenity space for all of the tenants.”
More than 3,000 square feet in all, it helps shift the office paradigm.
“You eliminate the typical ‘walk in the front door and go up the elevator to your space’ mentality,” says Mourer. “You get out of your office and come down to this space for a different view.”
Allison Brandt, an architect with Open Studio and lead on the Granite Place project, says “attention to detail” is a big differentiator. “That level of finish and detail is really important to Granite,” she says. “They were willing to put that extra level of investment into this space.”
Mourer concurs. “Clearly, the discussion has been about quality, because [Granite] owns it long-term. They don’t build it and sell it.”
Mourer and Brandt both commend GE Johnson. “We were able to work as a team through the design process and tweak things where we needed for the budget,” says Brandt.
“You want a partner who can give you real-time feedback,” Mourer says. “We really like their ability to jump in and really be a partner and look at things we’re not thinking of.”
The GE Johnson team feels the same way. “The collaboration between the owner, the owner’s rep and the architects has been pretty spectacular,” says Mortenson, citing an exemplary safety record. “I’m a 30-year industry guy and I think it’s the best team I’ve ever worked with.”
Echoes Parr: “I can’t overstress the amount of support we get from Confluent and Open Studio and Granite to resolve issues.
“Our weekly OAC (owner-architect-contractor) meetings are dry and boring,” he says. “I think that’s a good sign of a well-run job.” \\