Category Archives: Regional construction

Combined-Cycle Disruption

Even as construction on Tenaska Westmoreland winds down and work is underway on three other combined-cycle plants in Southwestern PA, market forces are disrupting the power generation industry again. Headlines suggest that coal-fired generation is dead but a number of coal-fired plants that had invested in becoming EPA-compliant still operate. Moreover, the cost basis of most of these plants have been amortized, which means they can be cheap bidders on the energy grid supply auctions. With costs rising for construction of new gas-fired plants, this cheap supply dynamic is beginning to stress the pro forma for future combined-cycle plants. Projects like the $350 million, 550MW Invenergy plant in Elizabeth or Ray Bologna’s $420 million, 651MW project near Burgettstown will be harder to pencil out. The results of the 2021/2022 PJM capacity market auction, which closes May 16, will be an indicator of how tight the market will be, and how feasible the additional plant capacity is.

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Tenaska Westmoreland plant in South Huntingdon Township.

Another of Downtown Pittsburgh’s large adaptive re-use projects is out to bid. Arbor Construction – the construction management arm of Stark Enterprises – is taking bids on renovations to the former 441 Smithfield Street office building, now branded as Icon on Smithfield. The 220,000 square foot building was originally a department store that Stark Enterprises is proposing to adapt to apartments on the upper floors with about 60,000 square feet of retail/dining on the first two floors.

Mascaro Construction was selected as CM for the Health and Fitness Center at Carnegie Mellon, a $45 million renovation of Skibo Hall. RIDC awarded the second phase of Mill 19 to Jendoco Construction. The $12.4 million, 90,000 square foot building should start later this year. Carlow University has its $7 million St. Joseph Hall project out to bid to FSS, Franjo, Massaro, Mosites, Rycon and Volpatt. St. Clair Hospital has short-listed Mascaro, Massaro and Volpatt on its $15 million central plant project.

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Slow Start, Big Promise

The unusually cold weather made for a slow start to the 2018 construction season. Bidding activity has been slow out of the gate too, but the momentum is building. There is news on a couple of large projects people have been keeping an eye on. Siemens Corp. is taking bids on early packages at the $600 million combined cycle plant at Hatfield Ferry in Green Co. Wesex Corp. has started work on the first building at Castlebrook’s million-square-foot industrial park in Big Beaver/Koppel area in Beaver County. The building is a 400,000 square foot warehouse called the Fairlane Distribution Center. Allegheny Health selected the Gilbane/Massaro team to build its new $200 million new hospital in Wexford. At Slippery Rock University, DGS selected the team of Mike Coates Construction, Renick Bros. and Blackhawk Neff to negotiate a final agreement for the new $22 million performing arts center at Miller Auditorium. In other commercial real estate starts, Jendoco Real Estate started work on Building 200 at Settlers Cabin Business Park.

job creation history

News on the economy has been very good to start the year. The government reported that 148,000 new jobs had been created in December, marking the 75th straight month of job gains. Pittsburgh’s job market remained in growth mode in November. The Department of Labor reported that 16,500 new jobs were added from November 2016 to 2017, a gain of 1.4%. Unemployment dropped to 4.8%.

CMU and Other Updates

CMU and RIDC made an announcement yesterday that the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute and the Manufacturing Futures Initiative would take about 60,000 square feet of the 94,000 square foot first building at the Mill 19 building at Hazelwood Green. Mill 19 is the creative re-use of the last remaining mill structure at the former J & L Steel works (now also formerly known as Almono). This lease wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret but it is one more piece of economic good news for Pittsburgh, especially given that ARM’s main goal is to spin out technology that will result in other new companies. Construction of the core and shell for the building will be done by Turner Construction, which is also doing preconstruction for the CMU tenant improvements.

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Rendering of Mill 19 by MSR/Ten X Ten/R3A

In Lawrenceville a similarly-named project is getting underway. PJ Dick is starting construction on Mill 41, a 75,000 square foot office building being developed by Fort Willow on the site of a former mill.  At the Shell plant in Monaca, Bechtel awarded Turner Construction the $9-10 million rail buildings package that bid last spring. One week after AHN announced its major capital program, the hospital system is taking proposals from Graziano, Jendoco, Landau, Rycon and Turner for a 60,000 square foot, $20 million cancer center at the Forbes Regional campus in Monroeville.

The Wave is Building

This morning’s announcement from Allegheny Health Network is but the latest in a string of major construction project announcements over the past few months. Unlike some of the other, however, the AHN projects should be moving quickly. For contractors trying to maintain capacity (and build backlog) ahead of the growing wave of construction coming in 2018 and beyond, that’s welcome news.

The details: a new 160-bed hospital will be built in Pine Township next to the Highmark Wellness Pavilion in Wexford. That project, which should run $300 million, is slated to start in mid-2018. AHN expects to put out RFP’s for design and construction management within a few weeks. AHN also announced a partnership with Emerus, a Dallas-based developer/operator of “micro-hospitals” to build community hospitals throughout the AHN footprint. There will be four such micro-hospitals initially, one each in the north, south, east, and west suburbs. In other similar markets, Emerus facilities have been in the 40,000 square foot range.

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Rendering of the new 160-bed hospital in Pine Twp. by Allegheny Health Network.

The AHN program amounts to a $700 million expansion of its facilities. Some of that expansion includes projects already awarded, including the new cancer center in Butler, which was awarded to the design/build team of Mascaro and Stantec.

Another wave that is building is the follow on to Shell’s cracker, under construction in Beaver County. Multiple plastics companies have been in the market looking for sites for new manufacturing plants of between 60,000 sq. ft. and 150,000 sq. ft. At Starpointe, near Burgettstown, Scannell Properties has begun work on a 507,000 sq. ft. distribution center, which is rumored to be for Shell. ARCO/Murray National Construction is building that facility. In other logistics news, Al. Neyer has begun construction of a 220,000 sq. ft. Class A distribution center in Jackson Township near Zelienople and a major retailer is reported to be looking for a site for a million sq. ft. distribution center in Western PA.

In other project news, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh awarded a contract to Massaro Corporation for its $3 million Carrick Branch. Landau Building Co. was selected by WVUH for the $3 million Ruby Hospital OR. PennDOT awarded Beaver Excavating an $87 million contract for the next phase of the Southern Beltway.

UPMC South & Other Hospital News

The story that started leaking out Thursday afternoon – that UPMC was abandoning its plan to locate a $220 million hospital at Newbury in South Fayette – should not be misconstrued as a negative sign about the healthcare construction market. UPMC is re-thinking its five-year capital plan but still expects to invest $900 million over the next five years.  Thus far, the decision to scrap the South Fayette facility has not altered plans to build the Vision Institute on the Mercy campus, expand Children’s Hospital or build some sort of new facilities in the South Hills. And construction to meet pent-up demand is booming in other healthcare facilities

UPMC is still continuing its investment at the former Jameson Hospital in New Castle and building the $111 million tower at UPMC Hamot in Erie. The Allegheny Health Network is taking design/build proposals for a new 30,000 square foot cancer center in Butler from Jendoco, Graziano, Mosites, Mascaro, Allegheny Construction and A. Martini & Co. AHN is also bidding a 30,000 square foot, $16 million cancer center at the St. Vincent campus in Erie. PJ Dick, Turner and Austin are known to be bidding that project.

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Representatives from the city, county, Oxford Development and Argo AI (among others) were present for Tuesday’s announcement that Oxford’s Riverfront West building would become Argo’s headquarters. Rycon Construction has started work on the building.

Massaro CM Services put three State College Area School District elementary school projects out to bid, due October 10. The budget for the projects is $55 million and the district is taking bids on each or all three combined. The bids should be a good early barometer for how competitive it will be in the K-12 market as contractors build backlog for 2018.

PTT Steps to the Plate

The recent North American Petrochemical Construction Conference was held in Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago and there were plenty of pronouncements about the beginnings of the plastics and chemicals industries building out in Pittsburgh. The problem was there were few specifics to support the assertions. Maybe I’m still accustomed to the other shoe dropping but without some logical argument as to why the industries should locate strategic manufacturing assets here, I was unmoved by the PR coming out of the conference.

This morning came news that Thai-based PTT had exercised its option to buy the 168-acre site on the Ohio that has been proposed for construction of a second ethane cracker in the Marcellus/Utica region. The site was the Burger First Energy power plant and has been getting a demo and cleanup that JobsOhio has funded to the tune of $14 million. PTT had auditioned Fluor and Bechtel last year to provide preliminary engineering and budget estimates, with the intention of making a final investment decision in January 2017. Instead of pulling the trigger, PTT deferred the decision until late 2017. That was a cause for concern, although Shell delayed their FID several times and still moved ahead.

This morning’s news is another bit of affirmation that inertia for the petrochemicals industry is building in the Appalachia. Understand that a $13.8 million land buy won’t assure that PTT makes the FID soon or even goes ahead with the project, but it’s comforting news nonetheless. You can read the Pittsburgh Business Times story here.

Contractors seem to be comforted by Pittsburgh’s market conditions since the first quarter. The Master Builder’s Association’s C3 Index – a reading on commercial contractors’ sentiment about the market – showed big improvement in the second quarter. The MBA’s Eric Starkowitz released the C3 Index on July 1 and reported that a significant increase in backlogs had raised expectations about the future.

765ae82b-beeb-4a43-a990-42ea54c67cfd-largeOne significant project that has made news in the plastics industry is Ensinger Plastics’ expansion. After South Strabane Township officials hamstrung Chapman Properties’s development of Southport, where Ensinger was to locate, the manufacturer shifted plans and will add 214,000 square feet at its existing North Strabane location. The construction cost should still be in the $20 million-plus range. Ensinger is taking bids from Franjo, Bear Construction and Fairchance Construction in mid-July.

Healthcare Project Updates

Yesterday’s announcement by Highmark and Allegheny Health Network about the expansion of its cancer treatment added another significant project to the list of major hospital projects. In addition to the expanded partnership with Johns Hopkins, AHN reported that it would be building a new academic cancer institute at the Allegheny General Hospital campus, as well as suburban cancer treatment centers.

The AGH facility is to be a 59,500 square foot expansion with significant related renovations to the hospital. Costs for the project could top $50 million. The development of suburban centers are part of the overall healthcare trend to move treatment into the communities where patients live. AHN explained that these centers will be removed from the AHN system hospitals themselves, which will also receive renovations to upgrade cancer treatment facilities. Estimates of the capital spending for this cancer initiative are $150 million. Work is scheduled to start on the AGH facility by end of year. The target for completion of the overall cancer institute expansion is the 2019 expiration of the AHN/UPMC Hillman Cancer Institute agreement. No architects or contractors have been engaged for the specific projects, although IKM Inc. has been involved with AGH’s institutional master planning.

In other hospital construction news, PJ Dick was chosen as construction manager for St. Clair Hospital’s $80 million expansion. The agreement covers preconstruction services that will be done during the next year.

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Members of CREW Pittsburgh gather at Local on East Carson Street after the chapter’s Escape the Room teambuilding events on June 13.