Spring Thaw for the Market

After the heightened activity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s it’s understandable that the bidding market would take a breather during January and February but the extended slower period was beginning to make contractors and suppliers a bit edgy (and aggressive). The market has begun to bloom a bit over the past two weeks.

The cracker plant win has had literally nothing to do with the better conditions but the uptick in activity did seem to coincide with the announcement. But I do mean coincide. In the gas sector the activity is accelerating in midstream facility construction. This morning’s article about the proposed Appalachian Superior compressor station near the Mills Mall underlines the uptick. That station would be the first in Allegheny County but at least 5 others are being planned within a 25 mile drive north of the site. Keystone Midstream has applications in for 4 plants in southern Butler County and Mountain Gathering is working on 2 others. Work has started on 2 more stations in western Washington County by MarkWest Development. Several of these are smaller – involving 5 compressor units – but even those will involve $10 million projects.

The buzz about office building construction is growing as well. Highmark’s purchase or option activity in the north is now ‘on the radar’ for most business development pros. With 4 buildings of at least 125,000 sq. ft. announced at Southpointe by Horizon or Burns & Scalo you might think that a temporary glut is looming but reports about Horizon’s first project are that the leasing is brisk and the building may already be more than 50 percent leased (even without a completed design). Rumors abound of multiple deals in Cranberry and multiple 100,000 sq. ft. plus users looking. Connecting the dots between users and development deals shouldn’t be too hard but a number of the users will be surprises. And prospects for downtown continue to blossom, including the possibility that a large natural gas or energy player is looking hard at a high visibility location.

Hospital construction is getting downright exciting. The team continues to expand/change at Highmark/West Penn Allegheny, with new execs, new professionals and changing roles for the original players in the new version of WPAHS. Former West Penn Hospital facility manager Bill Marshall has joined the Highmark team and Oxford Development has been retained to assist Highmark with their development. The next big announcement in this sector should be UPMC’s choice for the CM at the CIS project in Shadyside. The hospital interviewed its four finalists – Turner. Massaro/Clark, PJ Dick/McCarthy and Mascaro/Gilbane –  this week and it’s a hard race to handicap. Mascaro is already working on the exterior of the former Ford Motor building at Baum & Morewood so you might like their chances but I doubt anyone – including Mascaro – is counting the project out yet.

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