Although the construction downturn began years ago, its deep impact on major projects around the region is reflected in ENR NY’s list of 2010 Top Starts. Last year, the top 25 projects started in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tallied a combined $8.8 billion in total project value—less than half of the $18.6 billion in new work on our list of 2009 projects. Starts in 2009 were bolstered by the $8.7-billion Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel, which has since been terminated. Even without that project on the list, 2010 still represents a drop-off in activity.
“Without a doubt, it was a tough year for getting work,” says Michael Viggiano, senior vice president and general manager for Skanska Civil Northeast, Whitestone, N.Y. “Like everyone, we’re plugging along and thankful for the opportunities we have.”
Among Skanska’s opportunities is the $540-million World Trade Center PATH Train Station, which broke ground in March 2010. The project includes the construction of four new station platforms, as well as a concrete roof that will form the plaza to the east of the new World Trade Center Memorial. The project, which is part of the $1.6-billion World Trade Center Transit Hub, will keep crews busy through 2014.
Despite years of hand-wringing over delays at the World Trade Center, the start of billions of dollars in new work at the site, including Two WTC and Three WTC [see story on page NY34], has been opportune for all parties, says John Livingston, president of Tishman Construction, New York.
Last year, Tishman also started work on the $550-million Public Safety Answering Center II in the Bronx. When completed in late 2013, the 10-story, 545,427-gross-sq-ft facility will house the 911 call center of the NYPD and the FDNY. “Starting in 2010, the cost of construction is down and it’s a good time to build,” he says. “The stars aligned. They started, after many years of planning, at a time when it is attractive to build in the marketplace.”
Although commercial work took a big hit in recent years, some opportunistic owners seized the chance to lock in discounted construction costs in 2010. Turner Construction, New York City, originally planned to break ground on the Canon USA Corporate Headquarters project in Melville, N.Y., during 2009, but it was delayed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, says Charlie Murphy, senior vice president and general manager of New York operations at Turner.
In light of reduced construction costs, the $400-million project was revived and broke ground in May 2010. The 700,000-sq-ft facility sits on a 52-acre parcel off of the Long Island Expressway and will seek LEED Gold certification after completion in December 2012.
“It was a good time to buy construction services in 2009 and 2010,” Murphy says. “By postponing it for a year, Canon saved 20% on construction costs.”
The interiors market is also gaining momentum, especially at a time when lease rates are favorable and few base-building projects are in the works, Murphy says. Turner provided construction management services on an eight-floor fit-out of new offices for Bloomberg in New York. The project, designed by Studios Architecture, New York, started in January 2010 and finished nine months later.
“I’m bullish on the interiors market,” Murphy says. “Since 2009, our interiors group has seen steady improvement. We expect that will continue into 2012.”
Other commercial work started in 2010 includes a new $100-million central facility in Orange, Conn., for The United Illuminating Co. The project, which broke ground in July, addresses a variety of needs for the New Haven-based electricity distribution company. As well as a four-story, 128,000-sq-ft office building, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., New Haven, is building a 186,000-sq-ft operations center, a 17,000-sq-ft vehicle maintenance building, a 43,000-sq-ft covered truck parking area and a 178,000-sq-ft parking structure.
Despite the down economy, the appetite for sports and entertainment projects stayed sharp in 2010. Turner broke ground on the $676-million Madison Square Garden Renovation in Manhattan in June. Crews are upgrading and improving virtually all of the arena’s customer-related areas in multiple construction phases that will have to be conducted without disrupting scheduled events at the facility. The project, designed by Brisbin Brook Beynon, Toronto, is slated for completion in September 2012.