PCL tackles parks

Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock attended the recent ribbon cutting for the first phase of the Paco Sanchez Park upgrade by PCL Construction.

PCL Construction has built a lot of high-profile commercial real estate and government buildings in Colorado and the Denver area since the Canadian company moved its U.S. headquarters to the Mile High City more than four decades ago.

A small snapshot of the eclectic mix of PCL’s projects include:

PCL, which traces its roots to Stoughton, Saskatchewan, in 1906, also played a big role in the construction of another project you may have heard of – the Denver International Airport.

PCL’s latest two developments in metro Denver were pint-sized, compared to much of the other work it has done.


This one-of-a-kind slide in Denver’s Paco Sanchez Park was made to resemble a giant microphone.

PCL recently completed the first phase of two municipal parks – one in Denver, the other in Boulder.

Paco Sanchez Park in Denver and the Civic Area park in Boulder mark the first two parks PCL has built in the Denver area, according to Steve Kovach, a division project manager at PCL.

But the parks were immensely rewarding, Kovach said.

“You know, if you go to the opening of an office building or a big municipal building, it’s really nice, but the people who work there kind of go into their new building, shut the door and that is it,” Kovach said.

“When we went to the (recent) ribbon cutting of these parks and you saw the big smiles on the kids’ faces and just how happy they were, it was really something special,” Kovach said.

The first phase of the Paco Sanchez Park cost $3.2 million. PCL will start the $6.1 million second phase in September, which is financed by voter approved Go Bonds. It will take about a year to complete the second phase of the park at 1290 Knox Court.

The park is named in honor of Francisco “Paco” Sanchez, the first owner of a Spanish-language radio station in Denver.

Sanchez, during his storied career, also was a Hispanic activist who fought for affordable housing, who was instrumental in the building of the Avondale housing development near West Colfax Avenue and Federal Boulevard, the first low-income housing development in the city that was funded in part with private sponsors.

He also served on the Denver Urban Renewal Authority board and was a two-term legislator before he died at age 57 in 1973.

“During the initial kick-off we showcased some custom play equipment in the park that was custom built to resemble a microphone, in honor of Paco Sanchez, who was such a prominent Latino radio personality,” Kovach said.

While the Paco Sanchez Park has been around for decades, it needed a lot of TLC from PCL.

“It is in West Denver and is southwest of the Mile High Stadium in a somewhat underdeveloped part of the city,” Kovach said.

“I tell you the thing that was really cool about the upgrade to Paco Sanchez Park is how the community has already really embraced it,” he added.

“At the ribbon cutting with Mayor Hancock and a number of other city and community officials, people made it clear that this was going to be a park with no graffiti, no litter and a safe place for kids and parents in the neighborhood to enjoy,” Kovach said.

PCL also recently completed the $7.5 million first phase of the 4.5-acre Civic Area park at Arapahoe Street and Canyon Boulevard in Boulder. The Boulder Creeks runs through the park.

The park was flooded during that huge storm about five years ago.

“One of the biggest challenges of this is the park is not only in a flood plain but is in a flood conveyance area, which means that parts of the park will store stormwater after a huge rain,” said Derek D’Ardenne, the project manager at PCL in charge of the renovation of the park.


PCL breathed new life into the Civic area park in Boulder, which was underwater following the huge rain storm about five years ago.

“If we have another heavy rain, like we had five years ago, it will flood again,” despite PCL adding things like earthen berms, he said.

However, as you would expect in Boulder, future flooding would be dealt with in the most natural way possible, with the addition of rain gardens, wetland buffers and planting areas.

PCL also re-routed existing bike and pedestrian paths and created cordwood benches constructed with recycled materials and added boulder seating.

The two park projects were built through PCL’s Special Projects Division.

“SPD is for smaller projects that might cost $1 million to $15 million,” Kovach said.

In addition to parks, PCL could tackle tenant improvements, fire stations, boutique retail, and smaller hospitality and health care through the SPD.

PCL didn’t need to hire specialists to handle the park niche.

“We have civil engineers who understand things like grading, building earthen berms and light bridge structures,” he said. “And while we haven’t built any parks in the Denver area, out at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, we built a running track and landscaped the area, with is similar to building a park.”

PCL is actively planning building and renovating more parks in the Denver area.

“For example, Denver plans some parks in RiNo, the River North Arts District area. We really enjoy park work and think it will be a good niche for us.”

If you scratch the surface of just about any deal, there is a story behind it. The Rebchook Real Estate Corner looks at the what and who that make the Colorado commercial real estate industry spin every Tuesday and Thursday online at CREJ.com. The people behind the deals are passionate about what they do, whether they focus on offices, apartments, industrial, retail, land or lending. They also are passionate about their clients. Given the cyclical nature of commercial real estate, those who prosper in it have plenty of stories to tell. I hope to share them with you. 

This column includes news stories, in-depth looks at deals, profiles, Q&As and pieces on the latest trends. Contact John with story tips at JRCHOOK@gmail.com or 303-945-6865.

John Rebchook has been taking the pulse of the Denver-area and Colorado commercial real estate world for almost 35 years. He joined the editorial staff of CREJ in 2011. Prior to that, he was the Real Estate Editor of the Rocky Mountain News from 1983 until it closed in 2009.