6900 Layton Rises at Belleview Station: Excellence in innovation, integrity
WORDS: Sean O’Keefe
In development, no two deals are the same, and success in high-stakes, speculative commercial office construction invariably comes down to decision making. Of the many choices to be made, relationships and strategy are easy to recognize as the most impactful on the finished product. Jim Neenan, president and CEO of Prime West Development, has been a pivotal figure in the Front Range development market for more than two decades and appreciates people and processes as the functional epicenter of every choice he makes.
“When you develop a commercial office tower, nothing seems all that complicated at the ribbon-cutting,” says Neenan with slight amusement. “However, it’s never easy. Whether we are considering how to get the most value out of the assets or dealing with a global pandemic like COVID-19, challenging circumstances arise on every project. The most important thing is putting together a team that works cohesively.”
As 6900 Layton, Prime West’s latest development endeavor races toward completion, Neenan’s confident assessment of the fundamentals remains unshakable. Located just 200 feet from the light-rail platform at Belleview Station, 6900 Layton is a sleek 385,000-square-foot Class AA office tower that anticipates making a thoughtful contribution to the emerging transit-oriented development district before the year is out. Designed to achieve LEED Gold status, 6900 Layton is already 50% preleased as headquarters to Newmont Mining Corp. and the entire team has been driving the project forward to meet the schedule right from the start.
“We partnered with general contractor Weitz Co. and the architects in Gensler’s Denver studio in a design-build delivery,” says Neenan. The well-established partnership has been in place to deliver dozens of successful commercial office buildings for Prime West, including the district’s predecessor activator, One Belleview Station, just a block away. “Together as a team, we have pushed expectations on innovation and schedule. The result will be an elegant, progressive, mixed-use office asset further animating what is becoming a dynamic node on the southeast light-rail line.”
At 15 stories tall and covered exclusively in a jointless, glass curtain wall, the inspiration for 6900 Layton’s shimmering façades started to take root while Prime West toured prospective tenants through, One Belleview Station.
“When we were walking potential tenants through One Belleview Station, people always seemed to gravitate toward the corners where the floor-to-ceiling windows showcase spectacular views in every direction,” says Neenan of the high-rise tower housing his own office. “In seeing people’s natural attraction to the views and daylight, we felt it was imperative to take that idea even further and bring an all-glass façade to all four faces of 6900 Layton.”
The design solution sought by Gensler needed to balance the desire for expansive views from every angle with the schedule intensity compelled by the early signing of the anchor tenant, Newmont Mining’s move-in date. Committed to creating a better world through the power of design, Gensler’s Denver studio has been in operation for 47 years and today carries on a widely recognized legacy of design excellence. Senior Project Architect Jeffrey Hall, who led Gensler’s 6900 Layton team, enjoys the creative challenge and camaraderie of designing and building in tandem as design-build necessitates.
“Structurally, the building is something of a hybrid,” says Hall of the building frame, which accommodates garaged parking on the first five levels. “We have a central cast-in-place concrete core surrounded by a precast podium coming out of the ground for five stories, capped by a structural steel tower rising to the full height. Fusing these systems together with a unitized glass curtain wall required a lot of coordination between many parties.”
Hall, like Neenan, points to the team’s strong internal familiarity established through a long line of similar commercial office buildings over the last three decades as fundamental to 6900 Layton’s speed to market. Investigations into building systems and solutions that responded favorably to the high-tempo delivery schedule resulted in the selection of glass curtain wall panels that snapped onto the floor plates. This allowed the building to be dried-in quite quickly even compared to typical precast construction.
District design guidelines also significantly shaped expectations, as the direction for a walkable, mixed-use commercial neighborhood permeates all the properties being built at Belleview Station. With the building’s secondary frontage situated along South Newport Street, the design called for a strong contribution to the district’s primary retail paseo.
“Activating the streetscape was an important part of the vision,” continues Hall. On level one, 15,000 square feet of retail is joined by a large tenant-accessible fitness center and bike storage to encourage alternatives to auto-centric transportation. “We complemented the street-level retail transparency in our design treatment by incorporating materiality of brick, wood, and decorative metal detailing that speaks to the pedestrian scale of the street.”
Founded in 1855, Weitz is the oldest commercial general contractor west of the Mississippi and has been a leader in Colorado’s construction market for more than a century. Brett Rankin, senior project manager, led construction services for Weitz and has a strong appreciation for the long line of local successes between the three firms.
“The history between Prime West, Gensler, and Weitz in Colorado stretches close to 30 years,” says Rankin. “That goes back before any of the people involved on this project, so there is a reputation for quality, reliability, and integrity that has to be upheld in everything we do as a team.”
With Newmont Mining’s move-in date setting rigorous expectations on the pace of progress, Weitz was challenged to realize the Gensler design vision as efficiently as possible.
“Essentially, we needed to establish delivery conditions that allowed tenant improvement construction to closely coincide with core and shell completion,” says Rankin. The combination of a precast concrete base and the structural steel tower was a good start in the race to fruition. However, as most in the project manager’s chair know all too well, the devil is in the details. “We looked at quite a few ways of detailing the glass curtain wall before we settled on making the patterns on the glazing from a thin, wire-frame of aluminum rather than precast pieces as originally designed.”
Another unique feature at 6900 Layton is the integration of two completely independent mechanical systems. A primary central plant, located on the roof, serves floors 7 through 15, while a water source heat pump system is used on the lower six floors. The dual-process solution affords overall savings in both first costs and long-term operations.
Like Prime West, Weitz also recognizes the benefits of long-standing relationships. They brought in a collection of key subcontractors during the design stage to streamline sequencing and delivery schedules through pull planning and other lean construction methodologies. Design-build subs integrated early phase included MTech, Greiner Electric, Extreme Fire Protection and Stresscon. Additionally, GH Phipps Concrete, Drake Williams Steel and JR Butler joined Weitz as design-assist resources.
As 6900 Layton nears completion, Weitz is working in harmony with Newmont Mining’s tenant improvement contractor, Saunders Construction, to put on the finishing touches and ready the building for a fall opening. Prime West, Gensler, and Weitz already are looking down the line as the partnership is sure to continue.
“The performance of everyone involved in this project has been exceptional,” says Neenan with unabashed pride in his peers and their productivity. “In this business, every day is an opportunity for some very complex issues to arise. This team finds a way to get through them and still have a little bit of fun in the process. We can’t wait for the next one.”
To read more from Prime West’s Jim Neenan, see the full story in the September 2020 issue of Building Dialogue.