Sewickley is Hopping

During a visit to Sewickley on Nov. 17, I saw the recently-opened new Howard Hanna office on the corner of Thorn and Broad Street and got to experience what can only be calleda building boom in the village of Sewickley. Hanna’s office (picture below) was the fourth new commercial building started in the tiny commercial district in the village. Nearly 60,000 square feet of new office and theater have been started and nearly completed. Around the corner from the commercial activity, demolition was going on to clear the way for the Sewickley Condominiums, a 24-unit luxury development of two buildings on Locust Street by Zamagias Properties. And at the eastern end of the village, Charter Homes built 22 new homes in the last two years.


The new Howard Hanna Real Estate Sewickley office, Thorn & Broad Street.

Another bit of space in the village will soon become a parking garage, infrastructure that is desperately needed. WTW Architects is designing the 250-car garage, which should cost between $5-6 million.

In other project news, the contractor for Hanna’s office, Dick Building Co., was selected to build the new 4,800 sq. ft. First National Bank branch on McKnight Road. MBM Contracting started construction last month on the $1 million Butler Hospital 6th Floor Administration project. Continental Building Co. was hired by Shorenstein Properties to act as construction manager/owner’s rep for the modernization of the One Oxford Centre building, a project that should run $50 million or more.

The Millennials Are Coming!

Yesterday, the apartment finder and research firm ApartmentList published its findings on the movement of the Millennial generation over the past decade. Austin, Charlotte, Houston and Seattle were the top four cities for growth in population of people between the ages of 25-35 and Pittsburgh ranked 14th, which seemed to be a surprise to ApartmentList. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of residents of metro Pittsburgh in that age range grew 7.1%. During the same time, median income grew 6.8%. One stat that separated Pittsburgh from the pack was the lower rate of decline in home ownership among 25-35 year olds. The home ownership rate fell nationally by 7.4% but only by 4.5% in Pittsburgh.








The data supports the trend showing Pittsburgh’s median age declining to 33 years old and also underscores the competitive advantage of Pittsburgh’s lower cost of home ownership.

Updating some projects, commuters driving down Smallman Street should see Turner Construction starting work on the $19 million, 133-room AC Hotel near the Convention Center. Turner also appears to have been successful on the $30 million administrative buildings package at Shell’s cracker plant in Monaca, although that contract has not been confirmed.

Allegheny Health Network awarded Mascaro the $3 million Esophageal Lung Institute project at West Penn. UPMC awarded AIM Construction the $6 million Hill Building renovation. A. Martini & Co. was selected to do the $2.2 million build-out of Industrious’ co-working space in PPG Place. Pitt selected Massaro for its $3 million renovation to the Cathedral of Learning’s 14th floor.

Jobs Not Politics

Setting aside the crazy campaign and surprising results of Tuesday’s elections to get back to business, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced October’s employment gains on Nov. 4 (and the results were surprising there too). Employers created 161,000 new jobs in October. BLS also revised its estimates for September and August upward, to 191,000 and 176,000 respectively. The gains were in financial services and the losses in manufacturing.


In local project news, Lane Construction was the winner of the $117.8 million I-70 section that bid to PennDOT last week. Independence Excavation was low at $90.5 million on the Southern Beltway sec. 55A1 that bid Nov. 9. Reynolds Construction Mgt. was chosen for the Indiana Regional Medical Center’s $6 million behavioral care project. Allegheny Health Network selected Turner Construction for the $3.5 million acute rehabilitation job at Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights and Landau for its $8 million outpatient services clinic at Waterworks Mall. Mascaro is reported to be the winner of the $60 million Uptown District Energy Facility for NRG, although that has not been confirmed.

Some Developments in the News

Earlier this week developers Walnut Capital brought plans to the city for the conversion of 162-164 Fort Duquesne Blvd. into office and roughly 70 apartments. The $30 million project will be built by PJ Dick Inc. Strada is designing now and construction is expected in the spring.

Spring bidding is expected on the next phase of the Providence Point senior community in Scott Township, near Heidelberg. TEDCO Construction is the construction manager/agent for the owner and will bid the $40 million-plus project in packages, including a general package.

Late this month, it’s expected that the RFP will go out for CM services for the $100 million expansion of St. Clair Hospital.


Want to have as much fun as these lawyers? Don’t miss the PA Builders Exchange’s Annual Cocktail Party on November 11 at the Rivers Casino. Get tickets at the PABX website



A Truly Bizarre Decision

On Monday, Judge Timoth Patrick O’Reilly rendered a head-scratching injunction in Allegheny County Court of Common Please, one that will cost Jefferson Hills taxpayers a bunch of money.

The prime plumbing contractor on the project, Wheels Mechanical, filed to have the sanitary and storm sewer portions of the site contract removed from the general contractor’s scope of work and assigned to the plumbing contract. Wheels claimed including the site utilities in the site package was a violation of the PA Separations Act. In assigning the scopes of work, Turner Construction decided to include the site utilities in the site work because of the extensive work (roughly 160 acres) and the advantage to the overall scheduling of sequencing the installation of the utilities at the time the cut and fill was done.

During three days of testimony, little evidence was brought that clearly showed how this kind of separation of scopes is done. There is ample precedent for both approaches. What wasn’t shown was any evidence that the inclusion of the site utilities with site work was in any way intended to circumvent the Separations Act, especially since the delivery method included nine separate contracts.

Finding for Wheels Mechanical, Judge O’Reilly rendered the opinion that the school district and CM had “willfully” violated the Separations Act. This language makes it more difficult for appeals and stays of the judgement prior to the appeal. That counts because O’Reilly gave Turner 10 days to get prices from Nello Construction on a credit for removing the site utilities and a bid from Wheels for the addition to its scope.

I am a proponent for abolishing the Separations Act. But in this case, the problems with the decision go well beyond the Separations Act. First, there was a Project Labor Agreement in place, which means that jurisdictional disputes were to be decided by the method agreed to in the PLA. That means the judge should not have heard the case.

More glaring is the timing of this claim. Wheels was a bidder on the project, meaning that it attended pre-bid meetings, reviewed the bidding and contract documents for months prior to bidding and signing contracts. A reasonable judge should have asked why the claim wasn’t brought forward then or during any of the months before this phase of construction reached a critical point. Wheels is an experienced K-12 contractor. The scopes of work weren’t too confusing, nor is this the first time Wheels has had the plumbing contract on a project where the general construction contractor had the site work assigned to its scope. It is likely the first $73 million project that this occurred on, I’m sure, which may have added motivation.

There was time to redress the “violation” during bidding and contract evaluation. The time lost and additional money that will be spent (if the work is priced the same as was carried in the bid, this will be the first project in recorded history) by Jefferson Hills will be punitive to the taxpayers and the students. Observers noted that Judge O’Reilly asked a number of questions during the proceedings that betrayed a lack of understanding about construction. His decision confirmed that.

Involta, NRG Energy Plant Move Ahead

Iowa-based Involta announced the groundbreaking for its new 40,000 square foot data center to be built in the Northpointe Business Park in Armstrong County. The center will be anchored by UPMC, which has been pursuing a variety of constructoin or leasing options for data center over the past year or so. The design and construction will be handled by Rinderknecht & Associates from Cedar Rapids.

Bids will be taken on Wednesday, Oct. 19 for the new $60-70 million district energy plant being developed by NRG to serve PPG Paints Arena, Mercy Hospital and the Uptown/Lower Hill neighborhood. The bidders are Mascaro, PJ Dick, Stevens and Frank Lill & Sons.

Cannon Design’s construction management group landed the CM contract for Grove City Area School District’s $29 million addition and renovation (about 79,000 square feet of each) at the Hillview Elementary School. Eckles Group is doing the design.

UPMC Stays Active

After reducing capital spending on construction somewhat during the past two years, UPMC is revving back up. This week AIM Construction was selected to do the construction management for the $30 million Presbyterian Hospital HVI project. UPMC also awarded a contract to Massaro Corp. for the $5 million renovation to one patient floor, 5G at Presbyterian Hospital. Turner Construction was awarded a $2.3 million contract for renovations to the HVI unit at UPMC Passavant. Another renovation project, the $6.5 million Hill Building went out to bid to Massaro, Mascaro, Landau, Rycon, Gilbane, AIM, & Turner.

In other hospital construction news, Wheeling Hospital is working through value engineering with Landau and Volpatt on its $20 million-plus continuing care unit.

Today’s jobs report suggests that the US economy continues to expand. Employers added 156,000 jobs in September. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the July numbers downward to 252,000 and the August numbers upward to 167,000. More important than the headline numbers is the improvements in the underlying workforce. Wages rose 2.6% year-over-year; hours worked were up again; and 444,000 people were added to the labor pool, which pushed unemployment back up to 5%. Since last September, over three million more people have joined the workforce. That’s nearly triple the 1.2 million who were added through immigration, although still not enough to offset retirements.


MBA President Steve Massaro (4th from left) addresses the crowd gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of BreakingGround on Oct. 6.