Watch CBS News

Structural scare at Denver branch library cost $200,000 in consultant fees, 2-year closure: "Typical bureaucracy right?"

Structural scare at Denver branch library cost $200k in consultant fees, 2-year closure: "Typical bu
Structural scare at Denver branch library cost $200k in consultant fees, 2-year closure: "Typical bu 03:05

A Denver branch library reopened on Nov. 13 after being closed for nearly two years due to a structural scare that led the city to spend $200,000 on consultants. 

Ultimately, only modest repairs will be needed and those won't be scheduled until 2024, according to Denver's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

"It sounded very typical of the city," said Denver resident Julie Hendricksen, as she perused books at the newly - reopened Ross-Cherry Creek branch library at 305 Milwaukee Street. 

Hendricksen, who is a regular patron of the branch library and lives within walking distance, said the two-year closure forced her and her teenage children to drive to another branch library. 

"It sounds very typical bureaucracy," said Hendricksen of the closure.

In the fall of 2021, a routine structural review of the 18,000-square-foot building revealed numerous cracks in the building's concrete exterior. 


The city made the decision to close down the library branch "out of an abundance of caution," said Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson for  Denver's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. 

She said the decision was made "based on an initial observation performed by our contractor."  

The library was closed as of January 2022. The city hired an engineering contractor who was paid  $138,544 to evaluate the building.

Their report wasn't completed and turned in to the city until September of 2022.  

"Structural analysis indicates that the existing columns are structurally acceptable for the design loads on the library," wrote the consultant. "However, due to the variability of the concrete testing.. structural adequacy of the columns that were not tested cannot be confirmed."

The city then hired a second engineering contractor to evaluate the building and provide a second opinion. But that engineering company didn't look at the building until January 2023, a full year after the library had been closed. 

"Generally," wrote the second engineering company. "The building appears to be in good structural condition with some elements, specifically the exterior columns, in fair condition." 

That contractor also noted that the cracks that set off alarms may have not been structural and may have been due to cracking paint. 

"We removed the paint at numerous crack locations and revealed much smaller or no cracks under the paint. It appears that the brittle nature of the paint and its surface tension is magnifying the appearance of the cracks." 


The engineer went on to say, "the absence of visible distress implies that the presence of widespread significant structural movement is unlikely. Overall, we believe the widespread concrete cracking at the exterior faces of the columns is due to typical weathering of concrete  that is exposed to exterior conditions."

The second engineering contractor was paid $61,177, according to DOTI, bringing the total paid to the two engineering consultants to $199,721.00. 

Hendricksen called the lengthy closure, "very definitely disappointing" and was aware that "they thought there was a structural problem but maybe not a structural problem." 

She was back in the branch library the day it reopened this month.

Kuhn told CBS News Colorado, "we're going to do the work that was recommended which is to repair those areas of concrete columns showing signs of deterioration."

She said those repairs are expected to be accomplished in 2024 and "the full scope of work is still being developed."

The Ross-Cherry Creek branch library was built in 1955.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.