Loan needed on top of bond money to renovate new high-rise home for schools & DPS administration

DENVER - Denver Public Schools expects to have a new 13-story building ready for three Denver public schools by next school year.

The Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, along with Emily Griffith High School and Technical College will move to the building which is currently under renovation at 1860 Lincoln in downtown Denver.

The higher floors will also be the new home of the district's administrative offices.

Denver voters approved a bond in 2012, with some of the proceeds going to pay for the building and renovation to move the three schools into the space.

In December 2012, Denver Public Schools paid more than $19 million for the former Qwest Wireless and Union Pacific Railroad building.

School board member Arturo Jimenez told 7NEWS that the school board found out the district planned to buy the building as early as October, before the bond even passed.

"I think a lot of folks were shocked, including us. No one knew about 1860 Lincoln as an administration building until December of last year after the bond had passed," said Jimenez.

The board ultimately approved the purchase of the building.

Jimenez believes the building is too much for the schools that are being moved.

"That's why Emily Griffith is being placed in the bottom of this particular site is to legitimize the purchase of this administration building," he said.

Denver Public Schools Chief Operating Officer David Suppes said, "We feel like we've been incredibly transparent and clear all along the way."

7NEWS learned the cost of the renovation of the building and the move of the three schools and administration building will be more than $65 million.

Half of the cost is paid for with the bond approved by voters in 2012.

"We're not using any more bond dollars than we said we would use," said Suppes.

The district also took out a $31.4 million loan to cover the cost of the administration portion of the building, which will have to be paid back within five years.

According to Suppes, the loan will be paid back when the current Emily Griffith School near the Convention Center is sold, as well as the current administrative building at Ninth Avenue and Grant Street and other properties not yet sold.

"It's anticipated once we're fully in this facility and it's up and running that we're saving somewhere close to $1 million a year in operating costs," said Suppes.

7NEWS learned there have been setbacks during the construction.

Asbestos was discovered, resulting in a weeks-long delay and a $2.8 million cost.

According to Suppes, the building may be ready for the elementary school by April.

"From a cost standpoint, we had planned on certain contingencies and we had built contingencies into the budget in order to be able to address unknown things like this," said Suppes. "Right now, given what we had projected and what we're seeing, we're pretty confident we should be able to hit the numbers that we had planned on."