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Bright Spots in Connecticut

Connecticut's Slow Construction Market Showing Some Flickers of Light

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Overall, Connecticut construction activity remains slow, but there are some glimmers of hope for better times on the horizon.

Photo courtesy of Turner Construction Co.
Turner Construction Co. is fitting out the upper floors of the Smilow Cancer Hosptial at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
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“On the private side, the market is decimated,” says Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industry Association in Wethersfield. “There is nothing going on, very little activity at all.”

Shubert reports private universities are scaling back, casino projects have stalled, and there’s just a little happening in health care.

“The economic woes have affected construction [in Connecticut],” says Bill Gilbane, president and chief operating officer of Gilbane Building Co. of Providence, R.I. “The state has been affected by the insurance and financial industries, which are still downsizing.”

The pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors, which were strong in the state, have slowed considerably, adds Gilbane, indicating there is still some health care and education work. The company isbuilding a $145 million, four-story cancer center and emergency department at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.

Alan Sparn, senior vice president of Skanska USA Building in New Haven, also reports some activity in the health-care and education markets. In December, Skanska broke ground on a $42 million, 67,000-sq-ft, planned LEED-Silver social sciences and humanities classroom building at the University of Connecticut Storrs campus. A second 137,000-sq-ft classroom and office building is planned in the future.

Some K-12 education jobs also are proceeding. Malkin Construction Corp. in Stamford, Conn., is working on a $16 million addition and renovation at Stratfield Elementary School in Fairfield and a $3.5 million addition and renovation at the Jonathan Law High School in Milford.

“In 2009, there was a tremendous drop off from 2008, which was a banner year,” says Tom Durels, CEO of Malkin. “Projects that got deferred in 2009, we’re seeing them hit the books with firm commitments.”

Tim Yahn, president of Malkin, says he thinks companies were downsizing in 2009, unsure of the bottom or their space needs, so they waited to see what happened. Rusty Hirst, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction Co.’s Connecticut region in Milford adds that the market is slightly below where it was in 2004.

“Connecticut, overall, is pretty tough,” he says.

Hirst reports a huge spike in construction activity in 2006, when the market went up by nearly 70%. But the national economy has dried up opportunities across the board, except for owners with the money to proceed and take advantage of lower prices.

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