KT, Hick, celebrate DaVita groundbreaking

KT, Kent Thiry, is CEO of DaVita.

KT prefers the moniker, “Mayor of the (DaVita) Village.”

KT and Hickenlooper celebrated a groundbreaking of the 2nd DaVita tower on Friday.

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KT (Kent Thiry), Gov. Hickenlooper and Javier Rodriguez celebrate the groundbreaking of DaVita’s second office tower – DaVita-style.

The office groundbreaking was like no other. It was DaVita-style.

There were no executives in suits tossing out the ceremonial and cliché shovels of dirt Friday afternoon on the site near Union Station where DaVita will take 265,000 square feet of the 410,000-square-foot, 19-story office tower under construction.

Rather, Kent Thiry, technically the CEO of DaVita Health Care Partners, but who prefers the moniker, “mayor of the (DaVita) village,” was barefoot and decked out in a colorful garb that would not have been out-of-place if he were a busker at a Renaissance fair. But perhaps his Three Musketeer vest and puffy shirt were not the sartorial choice one would expect from the head of a kidney care juggernaut with $14.8 billions in revenues and a market cap of $13.1 billion.

Thiry, widely known as KT, addressed “teammates,” not employees, who jammed a 14th story conference room in the world headquarters for DaVita.

Many teammates held commemorative flags and pompoms, as well as the 3-D glasses handed out to watch the video illustrating how far the company has come since choosing Denver as its world headquarters in 2009.

Another executive, Javier J. Rodriguez, the CEO of Dialysis and Kidney Care for DaVita, joined Thiry and Gov. John Hickenlooper, on stage…from a zip line.

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Javier Rodriguez arrives in style for the DaVita-style groundbreaking ceremony.

KT, known for his acrobatics (temporarily on hold due to a shoulder accident from a spill on his bike), joked with Rodriguez that some people might have included a somersault with his entrance.

People in the audience seemed ready to flip over the new building at 2001 16th St., which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018 and will be one of the last parcels to be developed in the old rail yards that once was so forlorn and desolate that some wanted to introduce limited gambling to the area to try to bring it to life. That was something that Hickenlooper, then the owner of Wynkoop Brewery, a building that he initially rented for $1 per square foot, vehemently opposed.

When watching the video, teammates burst into applause, when it was noted that the second tower will include 8,700 square feet of naturally lit fitness center; rooftop solar panels will provide a 55 kilowatt yield; and 90 percent of the offices will have views.

The $190 million building, being designed by Gensler and developed by East West Partners and the Starwood Capital Group, will be energy and resource efficient, clearly something appreciated by many of the DaVita teammates.

Sustainable features will include:

  • An expected 23 percent savings in energy, when compared to other code-compliant buildings.
  • An expected 41 percent savings in water.
  • A bike friendly building with one-site locker room.
  • A “buy local,” focus, with most materials being sourced within a 500-mile radius, which is four times the amount of most new builds.
  • Twenty percent of the building materials will be recycled.
  • And 100 percent of the lumber used in construction will be from sustainable forests.

Hickenlooper, who was Denver’s Mayor when KT was on the hunt for a headquarters city, recalled that he readily admitted that neither Denver nor Colorado could match generous subsidies offered by states like Texas and Illinois.

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DaVita teammates celebrate a DaVita-style groundbreaking on Friday.

KT told him he realized that, but asked what Denver could offer to the grandchildren of the people who would be working at DaVita?

Fortunately, Hickenlooper had a lot to offer on that front.

Construction was moving forward on the voter-approved $4.7 billion, 122-mile FasTracks rail and bus line, the biggest transportation project underway in the U.S.

Also, strides were being made to improve Denver schools with its first integrated charter schools and a measure had been approved to reward “truly fantastic” teachers in Denver with financial incentives

“Sometimes it is better to be lucky, than good,” Hickenlooper said.

DaVita’s decision to choose Denver, as with so many win-win business decisions, came down to an “alignment of interests,” which overlapped, Hickenlooper said.

And while it is great that DaVita, whose original home was a warehouse in El Segundo, California,  has grown from 150 teammates in 2009 to 1,710 in Denver and (2,423 worldwide), what is truly valuable is that DaVita teammates bring such joy and happiness to their work, the city and the entire community, Hickenlooper said.

“Their joy is contagious,” Hickenlooper said.

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A view of the construction site for the second DaVita tower in downtown Denver.

He also said it is “just crazy,” and impressive, that more than 100 nonprofit boards have DaVita teammates as members, he said.

Hickenlooper said he doesn’t like to use “SAT words,” when speaking, but in this case he said it was appropriate to throw one out — topophilia.

“It means love of place,” Hickenlooper said.

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A rendering of the building being developed by East West Partners and designed by Gensler, which will be the second downtown Denver home for DaVita.

He said if there was a way to rank cities where people were drawn to it not for a bigger salary or career advancement, but because they truly wanted to call it home, “Denver would be No. 1 in America.”

He gets no argument from KT.

“We made a big decision seven years ago,” KT said. “It was the best decision we ever made for the village when we called Denver home.”

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. DenverRealEstateWatch.com is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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