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Restoration & Renovation - February 2006

Tivoli Makeover

A campus center in Denver gets new life through a complex interior and exterior renovation

Renovation of the Tivoli Student Center on Denver's Auraria Campus completes this month after five years of work in the middle of a busy college campus.

By Chryss Cada

Revitalizing a 130-year old building means being prepared for surprises around every corner - and that's not including the ghosts who supposedly roam the labyrinths of Denver's landmark Tivoli Building.

Photo by, David Patterson Photography

"In terms of complexity, this project [the Tivoli Student Union Revitalization] was about as difficult as it gets," said Roger Treichler Jr., project manager for Gerald H. Phipps Inc., the project's general contractor. "You've got a million little buildings and tunnels cobbled together with no drawings, walls put up during remodels that nobody knows what's behind them - all kinds of entertaining stuff like that. It was a fun place to work."

The Tivoli Student Union is the 16-building, 324,100-sq-ft landmark that anchors the Auraria Higher Education Center just west of downtown Denver. The campus is home to more than 36,000 students from three institutions, including the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State College of Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver. The $20 million, five-year revitalization of the Tivoli will be complete this month.

Historic Landmark

Originally a brewery, the Tivoli's earliest buildings were constructed in 1877. Additions continued until final completion of the complex in 1984. Historic buildings contained within the complex, roughly in their order of construction, are the Tavern, Turnhalle, Tivoli Tower, Hops Storage, Boiler Room, Power House, Keg House, Fermentation Building, Storage Building, Bottling House, Warehouse, and Storage Garage.

The Tivoli-Union Brewery complex was an active brewery from 1870 to 1969. The buildings were vacant from 1969 until ownership was transferred to the Denver Urban Renewal Authority in 1984 and subsequently to AHEC. The Hahn Co., a private developer, converted the complex into a public shopping mall in 1984. The Tivoli-Union Brewery was listed as a Denver Local Landmark on Aug. 17, 1972, and on the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1973.


New Life

In 1991, Auraria students voted to buy the building back and redevelop the Tivoli as a student union and retail center. The complex reopened in 1994 after a $7 million interior renovation. The Tivoli Student union is home to a food court, conference facilities, event halls and offices for student organizations.

"Students have a real sense of stewardship about this building," said Barb Weiske, director of student auxiliary services for AHEC. "After buying the building back, they decided to take the next step and raise their fees in order to take care of the building. It's such a treasure for the campus and Denver and they wanted it to be able to stand the test of time."

But by all accounts, the Tivoli had begun to look shabby. The buildings' roofs had reached the end of their lives, the paint was peeling, the masonry was crumbling and the windows needed to be repaired.

So Auraria students voted to raise their fees to fund bonds for the $28 million project. Of that amount, $20 million was the original construction budget.

"What we heard from the students was that this wasn't a renovation to add more space or to just fix the building," said Gary Petri, principal-in-charge of the Tivoli Project for Denver's SlaterPaull Architects. "This building represents pride in student life for the whole campus - it's the students' home away from home, and they wanted it to have a more energetic image."

Adding to the challenge of remodeling the Tivoli was the fact that students were using their "home away from home" during the construction.

"We didn't have the luxury of taking a major function and moving it from one place to another," Weiske said. "We were fully occupied in every sense of the phrase."

As many as 100,000 visitors a week pass through the main entrance of the Tivoli, according to counts done before the construction, so occupation of the building called for creative problem solving on the part of SlaterPaull, Phipps and the subcontractors. For example, scaffolding was erected over the coffee shop so that workers would have access to the ceiling above without disrupting the business.

"The students understood that the building was having work done and were very tolerant, but we also have one-time users, like those who use our halls for special events, who we had to accommodate," Weiske said. "Then there were times we had to shore up windows and make them look good for wedding photos even though they were in the middle of being replaced."

A Moving target

Revitalization of virtually all areas inside and out - including several tenant remodels - combined with more than 700 change requests and the constant mix of student center activities made scheduling and coordination critically important. In addition, the Phipps team had to deal with the adjacent construction of a multi-story parking facility and preparations for the 2005 Denver Grand Prix. The fluid nature of the project called for weekly coordination meetings and workflow that could be characterized as "scheduling on the go."

"We probably could have had the building done in half the time if it hadn't been occupied during construction," said Joyce Carnes of Jacobs Facilities Inc., the owner's project manager. "But under the circumstances, the contractor did an excellent job of planning, scheduling and communicating so that we got the work done as quickly as possible."

Bill Stott, the project supervisor for Phipps, handled coordination of the up to 100 workers who would be on jobsite both day and night. "It's like conducting a symphony," he said. "People have to come in and do their part in [the right] order before the next person can come in."

Because the student center was filled with students and visitors from 6 a.m. until late at night, much of the work at the Tivoli was done at night. Many workers reported hearing voices or having an eerie feeling in the older parts of the building, which is rumored to be haunted.

"At least I didn't have to work around the ghost's schedule," Stott joked. "The one I heard about is a girl, so she didn't bother the guys much."

Far scarier for the Phipps team were safety concerns on a site that had thousands of students passing under or by the building's substantial scaffolding every day. Plenty of signage, barricades, cones and warning tapes were employed to keep people aware of hazards and away from danger. Scaffold training, 100 percent tie-off, regular safety meetings and onsite reviews produced the desired results - no injuries to students, visitors or workers and no lost-time due to accidents. The only incident, in which a paint gun being cleaned inadvertently sprayed over a fence, was remedied by purchasing a new shirt for the security officer who was sprayed.

The revitalization of the Tivoli can be broken down into two areas - inside and out.

Exterior Renovation

The most visible transformation during the Tivoli project was the building's change from the white paint it had worn since the 1940s to the warm hues of the natural brick underneath.

"The original plan was to remove the paint, repair the brick and repaint," Weiske said. "In the end, it was better for the brick and more attractive to leave it uncovered, but there was a lot of angst about changing from the white everyone had always known."

The dramatic change involved tedious, brick-by-brick renovation.

"Everyone's breath was taken away when we discovered what was under that paint," Weiske said. "There are different shades of brick, but they go well together and they highlight the history of the different buildings that make up the Tivoli."

The change in the building's exterior involved a forensic architect, materials testing, complex paint removal, mortar repair, brick replacement and a brick-finish artist. The exterior of the Tivoli consisted of at least 12 different construction periods. The design challenge faced was the removal of multiple layers of paint from 12 different types of bricks, stone and mortar compositions. The first step was testing 12 different brick surfaces to determine the number of paint coatings, types of brick, deterioration, mortar damage and other factors.

"We wanted to do some of the leg work so the contractor would at least know what they were getting into before they bid the project," Petri said.

John Bosio of Restoration Specialists took on the job. Before work could begin, scaffolding was custom designed and erected on a wall-by-wall basis, including movable scaffolds that maintained tenant views and a circular configuration around the smokestack. Once the paint was removed, using one of three paint removers depending on the type of brick, contractors got a close look at what they were dealing with.

"We were literally evaluating each individual brick," he said. "We stripped 80,000 sq ft of surface area and then set about matching not only the color and texture of the bricks, but also their size."

In order to create the uniform façade visitors to the Tivoli now enjoy, Bosio and his team used four types of mortar and seven types of brick. Some bricks were "flipped" to display their best side; some were reusable and some had to be replaced. In the cases where a brick of similar color couldn't be found, bricks were individually stained, a process known as "brick imaging."

"We literally had the architect up to say which bricks stayed and which needed to be replaced," Bosio said.

Bosio and his team completed a punch list for every elevation of the project.

The mortar that held the bricks together also posed a restoration challenge. The meticulous mortar "repointing" process used Dremel tools to remove mortar where necessary to a depth of up to an inch.

"It varied greatly," Bosio said. "Some of the mortar had to be ground out, and other times it was crumbling so badly we could just blow it out."

Other exterior work included replacing many of the wood windows in the buildings with aluminum-clad wood windows. The detail, trim and mouldings for each new window were made to exactly match the profile of existing windows and replicate the Tivoli's historic character. Often, side-by-side windows had different dimensions and had to be accurately replicated in order to fit the available space in the brick walls. In addition, all rolled steel windows throughout the complex were repaired and repainted.

Because leaking roofs were causing considerable interior damage to the Tivoli, 19 separate low-sloped roofs on all buildings were replaced as part of the revitalization. This work had to be accomplished without interfering with activities and operations in occupied spaces below. In addition, 15 new rooftop HVAC units had to be installed before removing old units to keep mechanical systems in operation throughout construction.

Another exterior challenge was the design and replacement of exterior lighting. Fixture types were selected to complement the historic character and scale of the building. The design improved energy efficiency and safety while highlighting key architectural features, including illuminating the building's smokestack.

Interior Work

The most complicated phase of the interior work was the installation of completely new mechanical, electrical and addressable fire alarm systems as well as substantial remodeling and tenant renovations. Twenty-eight school departments, 22 private businesses, 19 separate conference/event facilities, eight study lounges and two computer labs remained in full operation throughout the project.

"A true retrofit is something we don't do real often," said Brian Taylor of U.S. Engineering, the mechanical contractor on the project. "It's a real challenge to bring the new system online while still maintaining the old one."

The new HVAC system, featuring energy-efficient equipment, new roof-mounted air handling units and a new central plant/cooling tower, replaced an old system that used 160 separate heat pumps.

"The old system just wasn't appropriate for the current use of the building," Weiske said. "Our cost analysis showed that we will recoup the initial expenditure on the new system in 10 to 12 years and begin to recognize a savings on our heating costs."

Many of the logical locations to run piping, ductwork and locate units were already taken. Extensive field analysis was done to determine the appropriate routing, both to serve the building as the design intended and to minimally impact the structure.

"This job was the farthest thing from normal you can imagine," said Nick Cheshire, project superintendent for U.S. Engineering. "You'd get into a ceiling, find all kinds of stuff just abandoned in there and then there would be another ceiling with even more abandoned systems."

Cheshire said his longest drill, which is three-ft long, was no match for the Tivoli's older walls.

"I'm used to new construction, where you have to go through four-in.-thick drywall," he said. "Here you have to go through four ft of brick."


While most of the "surprises" during the course of the Tivoli revitalization brought challenges, there was also unexpected good news.

Because the project was under budget and the bonds earned more interest that expected, the owners were able to add several "wish-list" items to the project.

"These are items that weren't part of the original scope of the project, items we wanted but didn't think we would be able to do," Carnes said.

Added project areas include renovation of the bookstore, the purchase of a new generator for the building and a new staircase in the Turnhalle.

The added scope brought the construction budget up to $22.3 million, Carnes said.

There still might be money to add a loading dock to the building and turn the east side of the Tivoli into a pedestrian mall.

With or without the two additions, Carnes believes the revitalization project is a success.

"When we set our objectives for this project, we said we wanted to increase traffic through the Tivoli," she said. "I think the coordination and effort this project required will pay off and we will reach that objective. Obviously, our objective to improve the appearance of the building has already been realized."

Tivoli Project Team
Owner: Auraria Higher Education Center
Owner rep: Jacobs Facilities
Architect: SlaterPaull Architects
Design Consultants: BCER Engineers Inc., Insite Design, J.R. Harris and Associates, JVA Consulting Engineers, Rider Hunt & Levitt, Rolf Jensen, SR + dK Consulting, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates
Contractor: Gerald H. Phipps Inc.
Major Subcontractors: Sprehe Construction, Metropolitan Glass Inc., Ken Caryl Glass Inc., Colorado Doorways Inc., Superior Roofing Inc., Denver Commercial Coatings, Materials Handling Equipment Co., JK Concepts Inc., Restoration Specialists Inc., Intermountain Electric Inc., Interstate Electrical Contractors Inc., US Engineering Co., Dalco Industries Inc., Dan Berich Inc., Colorado Sash & Door Inc.


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