Category: Construction news

Parting Shots for the Week

PJ Dick was selected by Central Catholic High School as the CM at Risk for their new $8 million STEM building on Neville Street. For the week before Thanksgiving, that would be the big news in most years but the construction market has become more active as the holidays approach than it was a month ago.

Most contractors are reporting higher bidding activity over the next couple of weeks. Among the highlights are the guest room renovations are the Sheraton Station Square, about 30,000 sq. ft. of additional retail strip space at McCandless Crossing and a new $53 million Lichfield elementary/learning center in Akron (on the PBX at Massaro has the $4 million ER expansion at Armstrong Co. Memorial Hospital out to bid. Martini is doing preconstruction on the $8 million Blind & Vision Services offices and a new $15+ million outpatient center for Excela Health in Greensburg. Interviews took place for the short list of contractors working on the Westinghouse HQ project.

Infrastructure Relief

After a disappointing Monday night defeat, proponents of the proposed $2.3 billion House transportation funding bill persuaded eight representatives to change ‘no’ votes to ‘yes’ on Tuesday.

The bill passed by a 104-95 margin that included strange bedfellows because of the amendment that accompanied the legislation which raised the minimum project cost for prevailing wage rates to $100,000. That amendment sent pro-labor Democrats to the Republican side of the aisle while moderate Republicans in southeastern PA stood with Dems to support the funding injection to Philadelphia’s troubled SEPTA mass transit system.

It appears that Monday’s vote allowed conservatives the political cover they needed from ‘no tax increase’ pledges. One House leader was quoted as saying that the switched votes came from Reps. who thought that the measure would pass without their votes but were persuaded otherwise on Wednesday.

The bill went back to the Senate Wednesday – where the prevailing wage modification may be struck down – before coming back to the House for a final approval later in the week. Gov. Corbett and House leaders believe the new-found majority in the House will hold.

In project news, DGS is requesting CM-Agency proposals for the University of Pittsburgh’s $10 million Hillman Library renovation. No word as yet on which firm was successful in the Cathedral of Learning Elevator Modernization project. Crown Castle International should be putting out to bid a $20 million expansion and renovation to their headquarters in Southpointe. Crown is acquiring the former Mylan HQ and will renovate that building and add a connection between the Mylan building and their existing office. Astorino is doing the design. Burns & Scalo Real Estate Services is the owner’s rep for Crown Castle.

Rays of Sunshine for Public Work

Construction in the public sector has been a tougher place to make a living for the past couple of years. While adequate funding for transportation projects still seems like a coin toss at this point, there is some activity in higher ed and K-12 that offers hope. Pitt is taking Predetermination of Responsibility submissions for two of its projects on Nov. 25. These are essentially pre-qualification forms to be approved to bid the $23 million Clapp-Langley complex and the $3.5 million Chevron Science Center jobs that DGS will put out to bid, probably in December. The projects will bid as separate prime contract offerings and won’t be from Pitt’s invited list of contractors but the PDR process keeps the projects from bidding to unqualified contractors. You can find the PDR at

For those with a longer horizon, two major new school projects are moving ahead in the early stages of planning. West Jefferson Hills selected Turner Construction as CM for their $70 million new high school. Selection of an architect will come after the holidays and bidding is not likely until 2015. On a similar timetable, Montour School District is reviewing architectural proposals for its new $55 million elementary school.

In private sector news, Mike Coates Construction was selected for the general construction package on Duquesne Light’s new $5 million warehouse in McKeesport. And James Construction started construction on the $15 million expansion of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in downtown Greensburg. PMC Management has started work on the conversion of the upper floors of the Clark Building into 144 apartments.

Ag Sciences Results

WVU’s new agricultural sciences building bid earlier this afternoon and PJ Dick submitted the low bid, edging out Mascaro by $502,000 or 0.6% on $77 million. The published budget for the project was about 10% lower than the bids but the spread tells you that the budget – if it was indeed that low – was off. Here are the base bids:

PJ Dick – $76,898,000
Mascaro Construction – $77,400,000
Walsh – $80,477,000

Catching Up on Some Project News

While the local (yawn) elections were taking place and the pitched battle over highway funding rages in Harrisburg, a variety of interesting projects are being priced or otherwise in competition.

Chuck Hammel was in the news with a small but expensive conversion of 2500 Smallman Street into what he calls ‘city houses’ but there was progress of sorts on a much bigger project that Hammel is planning. Along with Oxford Development and Lincoln Properties, Hammel is proposing 300+ units of apartments just east of the Cork Factory. The project should be $40 million or more. Massaro Corp. has been involved helping with preconstruction for a couple of years. Both they and Mascaro had interviews with the development team last week to move forward in 2014.

Massaro, Mascaro, PJ Dick and Martini are submitting proposals on the 18th for the CM-at-Risk for Central Catholic’s $15 million STEM building. Massaro, Mascaro, PJ Dick, along with Jendoco and Gilbane are putting in proposals on the 14th for a significant ($25 million or more) renovation/remediation at Westinghouse’s headquarters in Cranberry Twp. Both those projects are still being designed by Stantec.

In news from West Virginia, WVU is taking design/build proposals from Astorino, Gilbane, Mascaro & PJ Dick for their new $13 million baseball stadium. Mosites Construction was the apparent low bidder on several packages for general trades, demolition & concrete on Ruby Hospital’s second phase of the $140 million South Tower expansion being construction managed by Yates Construction. A few exits south in Bridgeport, Dominion is taking proposals from development teams for a new 100,000 square foot office in the White Oaks Business Park. They are working with six teams including Clayco, March Westin, Alter Group, Regency, thrasher & WYK.

Following up several of the smaller projects that bid in September/October, Volpatt Construction is underway with St. Clair Hospital’s $1.2 million urgent care facility at 2000 Oxford Drive in Bethel; St. Clair also chose Massaro for their $2 million interventional radiology suite at their main hospital; A. Martini was awarded a contract for Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services’ $4 million-plus tenant improvement in their new building on the Boulevard of Allies. Rycon is working on the $3.5 million build-out of the former Dick’s space in South Hills Village. The space will become an Ulta and DWS store.

Bid Results

One of the few big projects remaining in the market this year bid Tuesday afternoon. The Eastside III transit-oriented development project was bid by three contractors and PJ Dick was the low bidder by about 10%. The base bids were:

PJ Dick – $22,624,150
Mosites – $25,095,000
Mascaro – $25,292,000

Earlier this month, Mucci Construction was low on two new school projects. They bid $10.28 million on the $14.7 million Holiday Park Elementary School in Pum and were low with a $11.1 million bid on the $17.26 million new elementary/middle school for Frazier School District.

Butler’s Hotel Boom

According to the Pittsburgh Builders Exchange, bids are being taken by Tri-C Construction for a new 80-room Holiday Inn Express in Butler, PA. The new hotel will be on North Duffy Rd. across from the Butler VA Hospital in the Butler Crossings shopping center that is being developed by Tri-C’s parent company, Cedarwood Development. The property is the first of 2 hotels planned for the same corridor. Horizon Properties from Southpointe received approval from Butler Township to develop another 80-room hotel less than a mile away on New Castle Rd., this one a Hampton Inn flag.

The more inexplicable project is a third hotel but a few mile away in downtown Butler. The city redevelopment agencies received an RCAP grant to make an 80+ room hotel happen behind Main Street near McKean St. Developer J S Capital – the owners of the Fairfield Inn up in Slippery Rock – is reportedly involved in the Butler project, which will be a Marriott flag.

There are actually some fundamentals supporting these 200+ rooms of new hotels. For one, the gas industry is more steadily mobilizing in Butler County. Western Butler is adjacent to the more active areas in PA right now because of the Utica Shale exploration that is taking place in Lawrence and Mercer Counties. More importantly, the occupancy and revenue per room umbers for the limited hotels in the Butler area are relatively high. With a new medical center being built at the VA, visitation is expected to increase. The state aid for the downtown project also props up the fundamentals, reducing the private developers exposure significantly.

Highway Bill Deja Vu

House Republican Leader Mike Turzai announced yesterday that he would put a highway funding bill up to a vote next week to help Gov. Corbett fulfill his pledge to work on the state’s aging infrastructure. Turzai is not in favor of Senate Bill 1, which failed to get House action in June, but he indicated that what he would put forward for a vote would be in the neighborhood of the $2.5 billion the Senate approved.

The highway and transit improvements that such a bill would cover will still actually be inadequate to the maintenance and repairs needed but $2.5 billion will help keep the amazing economic progress that has been achieved in Western PA from eroding. Such an infusion will also allow highway contractors a chance to keep employment levels growing.

As an example of the current conditions, only one significant PennDOT project is out to bid in the western half of the state at the moment, the $15-20 million Route 28 widening at the I-579 interchange. September-October is typically a time when a number of major projects are lined up for winter starts.

The $17 million WVU baseball stadium has been short-listed. Design/build proposals will come from Astorino, PJ Dick, Gilbane and Mascaro.

In the pipeline, engineering/construction firm Burns & McDonnell was in the region during the past couple weeks pre-prequalifying contractors for the construction of a natural gas processing plant for Williams that will be located in southwestern Mercer County. The project is reported to be somewhat smaller than the Houston plant but should still be in the hundreds of millions in construction eventually. PPG Industries announced yesterday that it will take 120,000 sq. ft. in the empty Building 4 on Westinghouse’s campus in Cranberry Woods to consolidate the headquarters of its coatings business. The company has also been planning an expansion of its research facilities in Harmar, a project rumored to be in excess of $15 million.

This Week’s Notes

Public higher ed construction isn’t exactly booming but Penn State has a handful of interesting opportunities out now. PSU is looking for qualifications from CM’s for a $67 million data center project (2 buildings actually) in State College & Hershey; and for design/build proposals for a $7 million mushroom research center and $11 million bakery/warehouse expansion in State College. The university is also hiring architects for a $10 million student center in York and a $25 million student enrichment center in Harrisburg.

Down at WVU, the $80 million Ag Sciences Building has gone out to bid to Mascaro, PJ, Turner, Walsh & Whiting-Turner. Iron Mountain is rumored to have selected Turner for the $25 million vault expansion in Boyers, PA. Another round of budgets from 80% documents is expected from Mascaro, PJ Dick & Rycon for Noble Energy’s new 150,000 sq. ft. HQ tenant space in Southpointe.

Highmark selected Landau Building Co. as CM-at Risk for the $15 million imaging project at Jefferson Hospital. Central Catholic has narrowed down the field of architects for its new $15 million STEM building to Astorino, Desmone & Stantec.

Work Starting

Ground was broken this past week for the $70 million Gardens at Market Square being developed by Millcraft and built by Turner Construction. While that was the biggest splash, construction is getting underway on other projects that were both under the radar and on the screen.

PJ Dick has started on a $12 million, 48,000 sq. ft. expansion of Fuhrer’s refrigerated warehouse and offices on South Side. Another warehouse project, a 68,322 sq. ft.  job for Restaurant Depot is getting underway in the Strip by design/builder Oliver/Hatcher Construction. Faros Properties picked Turner Construction to do the first phase of their renovations to the Washington Plaza Apartments, a $3 million project; and Carl Walker Construction has started repairs to the Washington Plaza parking garage.

McKeesport Area School District awarded contracts last week for its $15 million Founders Hall expansion. The successful contractors were Gurtner Construction for general; R & B Mechanical for HVAC; Wheels Mechanical for plumbing; and A-1 Electric for the electrical.