Big Pittsburgh Industrial Construction News

This morning’s headlines seemed like a blast from the past. US Steel announced it was investing more $900 million in a new continuous caster at the Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock and $150 million for a co-generation plant at the Clairton Works. The project is the first major project at a Pittsburgh-area steel-making facility by US Steel in decades.

Another multi-billion project is moving forward on the Ohio River. Bids have gone out for a site work package at PTT’s proposed $6 billion ethane cracker in Dilles Bottom, OH. No final investment decision has been announced for the plant and the project is without an EPC contractor, but taking bids on site work is a major step towards construction.

Image courtesy RDC Design + Build

Braddock is also going to be home for a new industrial facility of sorts for Robotany. RDC Design + Build started construction on a 58,000 square foot warehouse for the high-tech vertical farming company that grows and sells produce under the Sky Farms brand.

Pitt issued an RFP for CM services for its new Human Performance Center, Chilled Water Plant and Parking Garage to PJ Dick, Massaro/Gilbane, Mosites, Turner, Walsh and Whiting-Turner. The proposal covers three elements of Pitt’s ambitious new master plan. The chilled water plant and adjacent garage are integral to Pitt’s expansion, making this project more likely to start in 2019. The cost of the combined projects approaches or exceeds $200 million.

In other project news, UPMC took proposals from PJ Dick, Mascaro, Rycon and Turner for the $40-45 million UPMC Mercy Hospital 3rd Floor renovation last week. AIMS Construction was awarded the contract for the $4.6 million Palumbo Science Center renovation at LaRoche. A. Martini & Company was selected as CM for the $1.3 million renovation to 947 Penn Avenue by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

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Updates

Last week the Business Times reported that EQT was looking for a new headquarters. EQT joins First National Bank in the search for about 250,000 square feet of consolidated office space. Rumors have been circulating for months in real estate circles that both firms are being courted by Buccini/Pollin for the anchor of the first office building at the former Civic Arena site. A lead tenant would probably have its name on a mid-rise tower that would kick off the $100 million redevelopment. Reports cannot be confirmed that the developer is working with a joint venture involving Mascaro, PJ Dick and Massaro.

While the healthcare headlines are about UPMC delaying hospital construction and the Highmark/UPMC insurance battle at the Supreme Court, AHN has been quietly building hospitals. The Allegheny General Cancer Institute is rolling towards completion at year’s end. Construction is underway on neighborhood hospitals in McCandless, Greensburg, Harmar and Brentwood, and the steel is flying on AHN’s $220 million new Wexford hospital.

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Rycon has topped off steel on the AHN McCandless neighborhood hospital.

PJ Dick is doing preconstruction on the $50 million Scaife Hall replacement at CMU. And Findlay Township supervisors will meet tonight and reaffirm the August 2016 approval of a 1,054,000 square foot distribution center at Chapman Westport, which will be the long-awaited Amazon fulfillment center. Permits have not been issued yet but construction is expected to begin in June.

3 Crossings Phase 2 (And other office news)

Oxford Development recently announced that it was going to move its office later this year to 25,000 square feet in the Riverfront West Building at 3 Crossings, almost coincidental to the news that Honeywell was taking 25,000 square feet of the former Bosch leasehold at 2555 Smallman Street. Today, Oxford made the first of what may be several big announcements on the second phase of 3 Crossings, confirming that Smith & Nephew was taking 45,000 square feet of the Stacks at 3 Crossings building. The $16.5 million Stacks core and shell is under construction by Rycon.

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Rendering by Perkins Eastman.

Oxford also released more information about the full next phase of 3 Crossings, which will be located along Smallman Street and AVRR, between 28th and 29th Street. A design/build team of Mascaro Construction and Indovina Associates will be delivering a $16 million multi-modal center with more than 600 parking spaces. Including the two-building Stacks project (which is a rebuilding of the Packaging Corporation of America’s former buildings), 3 Crossings Phase 2 will have six office buildings totaling 600,000 square feet. Rycon Construction will also be building the 178,000 square foot 2 Hopper Place office building, which is being designed by WTW Architects for construction later this year.

Steve Guy, Oxford’s CEO, said that the heightened demand from users had surprised them, even though Oxford expected the project to move quickly. Guy suggested that another two or three office buildings, plus the multi-modal center, could be under construction by early 2020.

3 Crossings was developed in anticipation of the growth of the AI/robotics/autonomous vehicle industries in Pittsburgh and the landing of Petuum, Argo AI and Bosch proved that concept correct. The Smith & Nephew lease shows that trend still has legs.

Oxford’s announcement came 24 hours after Carlow University and Elmhurst Group broke the news that they had come to an agreement on the development of a 225,000 square foot office building in Oakland on Fifth Avenue at Craft Place. Elmhurst’s Bill Hunt explained that the rapid expansion of technology and medical innovation in Oakland drove the decision to proceed with the building, which will be directly across Fifth Avenue from the 10-story Innovation Research Tower being developed by Walnut Capital.

In construction news, F. J. Busse was awarded the $3.5 million renovation of the 20th floor of the Federated Investors Tower. A. Martini & Co. has started work on the $12 million Buchanan Ingersoll TI at the Union Trust Building. Wildwood Country Club chose the team of R. A. Glancy and HHSDR Architects & Engineers to design/build its $4 million expansion/renovation. Franjo Construction broke ground on the $2.5 million new Jaguar dealership for A & L Motors in Monroeville. MBM Contracting started work on the $3 million-plus renovation of the Asbury Heights patient wing in Mt. Lebanon.

Pittsburgh Jobs Bump

Department of Labor data this week showed Pittsburgh’s seven-county unemployment rate dipped to 3.6%, which is lower than the national rate of 3.8%. That’s the lowest since February 1970. Even more encouraging in the data was the estimate that Pittsburgh’s workforce grew by 8,000 in February, the second straight month of increased workforce. The Pittsburgh economy has been creating more new jobs each month than the net growth numbers, but the rapid retirement rate was consistently dragging the numbers down. Attracting population – and thereby workers – has been a major stumbling block for the region’s business attraction efforts. Let’s hope two months becomes a trend.

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One of the job creators in Pittsburgh, Facebook, is taking bids on the buildout of its 105,000 square foot VR space in District 15 in the Strip. Proposals are due from Burchick Construction, RDC Design + Build and Turner on April 5. RDC is also out to bid for subcontractors on its next building, the 260,000 square foot + 387-car garage District 15 Beta.

ConstructConnect is reporting that Carl Walker Construction was the low bidder on the Washington County Courthouse Square Parking Garage and Plaza renovations, at $8.5 million or $13.4 million depending on options selected. DiMarco Construction was the low general on the $6 million Gill Hall Elementary School addition. Volpatt Construction was selected for the $1.2 million West Penn Hospital ERCP project.

College Work Keeps Coming

The impending crisis for higher education is a real thing. There is a demographic cliff coming in the next five years that presents an existential threat to colleges and universities that aren’t prepared or positioned properly to deal with the shrinking enrollment. This problem is a major reason why you’re seeing Robert Morris proactively reorganize its colleges and curriculum. The good news for Pittsburgh is that the major higher ed institutions in the region are already well-positioned; and there capital spending belies the coming slowdown for colleges.

Pitt has issued an RFP for architectural service for its $100 million Center for Human Performance, part of the $400 million Victory Heights athletic complex. Pitt is also interviewing four finalists for its $100 million One Bigelow Square project and will put the $70 chilled water plant out for CM proposals soon. PJ Dick has started construction on the $30 million renovation/expansion of the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie Mellon, one of six major projects in preconstruction or underway at the campus. Penn State has issued a request for letters of interest for A/E firms for its $92 million Liberal Arts Research & Teaching Building.

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Massaro Corp. is putting the new $5 million, 21,000 square foot Best of Batch Clubhouse out to bid. Massaro was also successful on a $1.5 million AHN neuro renovation at St. Vincent Hospital in Erie. MBM Contracting has started construction on the $9 million GI Lab at Allegheny General Hospital. MM Marra Construction is underway with the $2 million expansion of Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville.  Turner Construction was awarded the $6 million Braskem USA lab renovations at the Pittsburgh Technology Center and a $3 million fit-out for Facebook at CMU. 

Check out the March/April BreakingGround to see what big data will mean for construction.

Big Office Development News

Two big office developments made the news last week, both on the fringe of the Golden Triangle. Projects like these, and the boom in the Strip District, show the potential for the central business district to burst its traditional boundaries.

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Gensler rendering of the $100 million Lower Hill development.

The developers of the former Civic Arena site revealed their plans for a $100 million mixed-use development that is far closer to reality than expected. The Cuccini/Pollin Group unveiled details of the project, which includes 810,000 square feet of office, 190,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of entertainment, and a 220-room hotel. The first office is rumored to be a mid-rise with a corporate HQ tenant as a lead. Names like FNB and Peoples Gas have been linked to the project.

Intergen Real Estate Group will be responsible for the residential phases of the Arena site, led by KBK Enterprises, the Keith Key company that has redeveloped former Housing Authority of City of Pittsburgh communities in the Hill and is currently working in Larimer.

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Trammel Crow’s proposed office and hotel development west of Station Square. Rendering by Hord Coplan Macht.

Trammel Crow announced plans for three office buildings, totaling 400,000 square feet, earlier last week. The project will develop along East Carson Street, just east of Station Square and immediately behind the Glass House apartments that Rycon Construction is building for Trammel Crow now. Plans also include a new hotel. The first of the buildings will be branded Glass Works and will be 120,000 square feet. The other buildings will be dubbed Bottle Works and Forge Works. Trammel Crow is working on landing a lead tenant now, but has not ruled out going the speculative route. No CM has been hired.

Franjo Construction was awarded the $10 million Friendship Hub at the Allegheny Center Alliance Church on the North Side. Franjo also started construction on the $20 million conversion of the Commonwealth Building into 150 apartments. The Mascaro/Barton Malow team was selected by Pitt to build its $90 million Student Recreation Center. Turner Construction was awarded the $14 million Ostermayer Lab at Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport. Penn State has its $310 million College of Engineering buildings out for CM proposals, to be awarded in May.

The Airport Revealed

The Allegheny County Airport Authority unveiled the first views of the developed design for the terminal modernization program last week. The $1.1 billion project will proceed in 2 major pieces. One includes the new parking garage, ground transportation center, car rental center, and related facilities, for which the ACAA is working with Turner Construction to award a CM contract. The larger piece will be the landside/airside terminal work, which includes a new terminal building, for which PJ Dick/Hunt AECOM have been selected. No contracts for construction management have officially been awarded.

Pittsburgh International Airport. © ACAA

The roadway and enabling packages are scheduled to get out to bid around year’s end, with bids hoped for on building packages by mid-2020.

The bid market continues to be competitive. Bids came in last week on the North Allegheny McKnight Elementary. As was the case with the Franklin Elementary, the $17 million total of the apparent low bidders was below the published estimate. Nello Construction was the low general. Nello was also low on both the Franklin Regional elementary bids from the week earlier, which came in at or just below the overall $55 million estimate.

In follow up on some other projects, Landau Building Co. was selected for the $1.4 million Sarah Heinz House job. Rycon Construction was selected to provide pre-construction CM services for the proposed $1 million Carnegie Library of Homestead – Phase 1 Renovations. Bear Construction will be building the new 45,000 square foot facility for KTA Tator in the RIDC West in Findlay Township. Massaro Corp. is taking bids for its GMP on Washington Presbyterian Church.