CIS Breaks Down the Pandemic Impact with a Look at the Numbers of Projects Out to Bid in 2019 vs. 2020

As the industry works to come back from the affect of the pandemic and related shutdowns, CIS looked at the numbers of private and public projects out to bid across its coverage areas for the first six months of 2019 and 2020 to gauge the impact.

Interestingly, both public and private project numbers were down in January and February before governors of many Northeast states put stay-at-home orders in place and paused non-essential construction. Private projects were down nearly 25 percent in January and 14 percent in February. There were fewer public projects as well, down 12.7 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively, in the first two months of the year.

April took the biggest hit by comparison with both private and public projects out to bid down more than 56 percent. In May and June, the numbers are creeping slowly back up but still fall far short of 2019 totals. In June, private projects were down about 30 percent and public projects were down 20.

The total year-over-year change in number of new public projects for January through June is 31.4 percent.

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The total change in number of new private projects for January through June is 34.1 percent.

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$2 Billion Mixed-Use Project Unveiled in Astoria

In the last week, a major plan was unveiled that revealed how a five-block expanse of the Astoria/Long Island City area would be transformed into a sprawling mixed-use development. 

A joint venture from development firms Kaufman Astoria Studios, Silverstein Properties and Bedrock Real Estate Partners, the project is slated for a space (identified as a part of 35th Avenue that runs between 37th Street and Northern Boulevard) made up entirely of small factory spaces and parking lots. 

Dubbed mixed-use, which usually inspires a vision of high-rise buildings with residents above and retail below, the image this group of developers has presented to the public is essentially its own community, with 2.7 million square feet of space to build it. 

Its name: Innovation QNS. 

What Are the Details of the Full Innovation QNS Project?

The new district is presently zoned for manufacturing, so before any leg of the project starts, rezoning will have to be approved. One can speculate that the metro area’s continuing demand for housing and the ongoing trending toward mixed-use structures should mean there is little delay on this front. The developers cite a number of plans for the area:

  • 2.2 million square feet of the full 2.7 million will be devoted to residential space. 
  • Most new buildings will range between 10 and 26 stories. 
  • 2,700 apartments are to be built, with 700 reserved for low-income housing. This means that should COVID-19 or any similar issues lead to another shutdown, the project will likely remain essential and mean continuing work. 
  • Retail and office spaces are to be constructed, making up 192,000 square feet and 235,000 square feet respectively.
  • An 80,000 square foot grammar school will also be among many new features. 
  • A 90,000 square foot community center will take up a portion of the remaining square footage, and developers report that part of the leftover space will be available at below-market rent to non-profit organizations based in the community, startups, and artisans. 

The project as a whole has involved the local community in much of its planning stages and proposes that it will not force local residents out, and most small businesses will be relocating into the district. 

What Kinds of Jobs Will Innovation QNS Create? 

Innovation QNS is projected to create 5,400 new jobs, with 3,700 of them expected to be in construction alone. The other 1,700 are expected to be permanent jobs that will remain once the final bricks are laid and the new location is fully inhabited. 

The full scope of the plan covers 8.5 acres, to be converted into residential, retail and office spaces, and educational and community centers, plus all the surrounding infrastructure, and that’s all to be built after demolition. The initial groundbreaking is projected for 2023 and is expected to take at least ten years to finish. In the meantime, further planning and bidding are to be expected. 

Murphy Signs Bill To Ensure Clean Water and Environmental Infrastructure Project Funding

This week, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed a bill to ensure the state’s environmental infrastructure projects will be approved and continue through the new fiscal year. The bipartisan bill (S-2499) appropriates $1.167 billion in state and federal funds for clean water and environmental projects.

The measure appropriates money to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) New Jersey Infrastructure Bank Financing Program. It will be used to help “local government units, municipal, county and regional authorities, and small water companies with loans at or below the prevailing rates for qualifying clean water projects.”

State senator Kip Bateman, who co-sponsored the bill, said this will make sure that essential projects such as renovations an updates to water treatment facilities and wastewater controls damaged in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy will continue without putting more of the financial burden on property taxpayers.

The bill also authorizes the DEP to make clean water project loans to four municipalities in the Pinelands area that are receiving funding under the “Pinelands Infrastructure Trust Fund.” Disaster Relief Emergency Financing Program loans will still be available for short-term financing for projects to repair or improve the resiliency of environmental infrastructure systems adversely impacted by Storm Sandy, according to the bill.

Lighthouse Point in Staten Island to Resume Construction

Another major housing project in New York City has already shown signs of resuming construction after much delay. The site for Lighthouse Point has been shuttered and still for some months now, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, but signs of life have begun to emerge as Triangle Equities oversees a safe return to work for the laborers involved. 

The real estate development firm is known for its approach to urban development that includes public-private partnerships, targeting underdeveloped and high-potential opportunities, and creative financing. 

Their philosophy can be seen in its plans for the $250 million dollar Lighthouse Point, set in the empty United States Lighthouse Complex on Staten Island, a historic landmark that is to be revitalized into a functional, mixed-use property with retail and residential space, including affordable housing options. 

What Led to Construction Delays for Lighthouse Point?

Given the project’s status as essential construction because of its affordable housing offerings, Lighthouse Point saw little in the way of delay due to the coronavirus, as many construction endeavors did. Its troubles came much earlier than that, on two fronts:

  1. One came from a partial stop-work order due to what sources called “inadequate guardrails” and “housekeeping” at the location.
  2. Another came from the project’s contractor, Hollister Construction Services, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September of 2019. 

Triangle Equities would report by December that they were on the verge of hiring a new contractor, and have since done so in the months since.

Lighthouse Point: What Will the Finished Project Look Like?

Triangle Equities outlines the development of Lighthouse Point in two phases. The first, which was estimated to complete last year but may still be in the works, would address:

  • Over 60,000 square feet of retail space 
  • A residential tower containing 115 apartments, twenty percent of which would be designated affordable housing 
  • A parking structure with 300 spaces 

Phase II, set to commence this year, will:

  • Construct more parking for an additional 100 cars
  • Add another  23,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space 
  • Build a 175-room hotel and event space 

It is possible that the aforementioned delays halted the full completion of Phase I. Since Lighthouse Point remained designated as essential for its housing options, it stands to reason that the residential portion of the project is still underway. 

What Remains to Be Finished?

Phase II will be ready to kick off soon. With a projected completion in the summer of 2021, and more delays than anyone is likely to care for, this remains to be seen. In early June, the DOB reported that people were on site to make repairs to fencing, sidewalks, and to adjust other violations found during a previous inspection. Spokespeople for Triangle Equities reported that their new contractor would be taking care of the final preparations for safety and readiness but declined to reveal a new schedule for completion or details about their newly hired contractor. Announcements may follow in the near future. 

FinTech Building In Progress at University of Delaware

With construction workers deemed essential in Delaware, the University of Delaware’s FinTech building started construction in April while most projects in nearby states were shut down. The $38 million project on the school’s Science Technology and Advanced Research Campus in Newark remains on target for a November 2021 completion.  University staff has been in charge of monitoring the contractors to make sure they are following the state’s health guidelines.

The six-story, 100,000 square-foot building will house  labs and centers for the university’s College of Engineering and Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and the school’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships. Delaware’s Small Business Development Center will move there, and there will be space for startups, as well. The goal is for the building to be a center for financial technology and a place where students, faculty, and local entrepreneurs can collaborate.

ODA’s Bevel in LIC Wraps Construction

ODA Architecture’s luxury building designs dot major cities all over the world. With an emphasis on the people that will live in their structures and integration between nature and manmade, the firm’s residential designs represent the standard to which many Long Island and NYC locals want when it comes to sustainability and environmental friendliness. 

In Long Island City, one of their latest ventures, the Rabsky Bevel LIC at 42-20 27th Street, is in the process of laying its last bricks, representing a little over four years of labor to bring ODA’s vision to life. 

What Was the Timeline for this Project?

Developed for the residential development firm, the Rabsky Group, the story of Bevel LIC began some years ago when initial plans were revealed in 2016 for a smaller structure than what it ultimately became, first approved as a 99-unit, mixed-use building that would eventually grow to 202 units. It was originally slated for completion in 2018. 

News of this project did not often break, save for when things went wrong, including an incident in 2017 where a floor collapse injured six laborers. By the end of 2019, construction had advanced far enough that the owners began to lease apartments, and full completion has likely been awaiting the full reopening of construction after the first outbreak of COVID-19 shut down all but non-essential projects. In early June, work finally began to wrap up, with the final touches forthcoming in the coming weeks. 

Bevel LIC at a Glance

As before, the finished Bevel LIC represents a much larger building than its initial plans had hoped for. With 99 units and 15 stories, it was intended as a mixed-use building that would include retail space on the ground floor and residential space in the upper floors. 

The finished project would be far grander, but it appears that retail space has been replaced with tenants-only luxury amenities. 

Features include: 

  • 18 stories, with 202 residential units, ranging from studios to two-bedrooms, priced from $2,400 to $4,200 per month
  • Wooden floors and floor-to-ceiling windows in units, with interiors by Durukan Design.
  • A courtyard with full landscaping
  • Amenities like bicycle storage, a children’s room, cinema, fitness center, and a private library

Jersey City Moves Forward, Opens Bidding for Loew’s Jersey Theatre Renovations

While the pandemic has hit the arts and entertainment business and venues hard, last week there was a little hope for the future—and movement in the redevelopment of Journal Square in Jersey City―as the bidding process opened for the redevelopment of the historic Loew’s Jersey Theatre.

The building, which dates back to the 1920s, will require extensive renovations, restoration and possible expansion while also restoring the historic character and aesthetic appeal, while creating all of the modern needs such as added restroom capacity, as well as up-to-date concession and ticketing areas.

Construction of the $40 million project will need to create a facility that allows for maximum operating capacity and maximum safety of patrons. Upgrades are needed for the plumbing, production equipment, and electrical systems, as well as install new air conditioning, fire and security systems. Roof and exterior façade work will also be needed.

An effort will be made to clean and restore historic fixtures and add architectural lighting that complements the original. Historic production and mechanical equipment will be preserved in place or relocated within the building.

Proposals are are due in early August, and the city hopes to re-open the theater in 2022.

 

New York’s LaGuardia Airport Update Nearing Completion

Among essential construction projects that have continued to chug along throughout the pandemic, the redesign of LaGuardia’s Terminal B has managed to remain on schedule with few delays, thanks in part to lower traffic, and is now complete. Part of a larger revitalization plan for the airport launched in 2015 by Gov. Cuomo, the arrivals and departures hall was unveiled last week, giving travelers a picture of what the future holds in store for LaGuardia as a whole when the final bricks are in place sometime in 2021. 

The finish line, though still a year away, reflects years of effort to update and improve the airport, once openly criticized for its lack of cleanliness and desperate need of a facelift.  

What Has Been the Timeline for LaGuardia’s Transformation?

Plans for a full rebuild were around as early as 2010, when Christopher Ward, director of the Port Authority, brought in consultants to look into fully demolishing and rebuilding the entire site to something modern and up to date. The proposed project would cost about $2.5 billion, and proposals would continue in the coming years. 

The initial plan included bringing in a private company to fund the operation. Still, in 2015, Governor Cuomo announced the state would be overseeing this project, which had an original budget of $4 billion but has now grown to almost $8 billion. Phase One began in 2016. Private airlines started to invest in 2017, in time for Phase Two to begin. 

Each stage of construction has been gradual, with multiple changes, including moving the entire facility approximately 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, an eco-friendly build, and new parking garages. The only major parts of the airport that do not appear to have needed changing were the runways. 

LaGuarida Airport and Terminal B: A Picture of Progress

LaGuardia’s Terminal B and its plans and progress have been an ongoing part of the project since at least 2011, starting with a complete demolition during Phase One. With its recent reopening, we have a clearer idea of what the new and final LaGuardia will resemble as a whole:

  • Once viewed as small and cramped, the new terminal provides a spacious airport—incidentally safer for social distancing. The new terminal gives us a preview of this with four stories and about 850,000 square feet of space.
  • With 16 security lanes, 75 check-in kiosks and at least 5 additional gates, there is more room for travelers to get where they need to go quickly and safely. 
  • Multiple new dining and retail spaces are available with far more space than they were allotted before, with famous New York City brands like Tony + Benny’s Authentic Brooklyn Pizza, Think Coffee, Eli’s Essentials by Eli Zabar, and more awaiting new customers. 

The finished space is light and stylish, with floor-to-ceiling windows letting the sun in from every angle and mid-century modern touches to the decor, reflecting years of design, development, and labor. 

What Remains to Be Finished? 

Two significant points reconstruction still remain, as well as multiple other finishing touches. Partnering with Delta Airlines, Terminal C’s renovation is still underway and due to finish in 2021. The Western Concourse, which will house American Airlines, remains a part of Terminal B that is also not yet finished, and slated for a 2021 opening. Seventeen additional gates are also reported to be on their way. The vision of a finished LaGuardia airport appears to be a wide-open space, elbow room, and ease of access while traveling. Laborers continue to work diligently to bring the entire project in on time and under budget.

HVAC Companies Likely To Be in Higher Demand with COVID-19 Requirements, Reopenings

As the tri-state area begins reopening businesses and camp facilities, HVAC companies are likely to be in high demand.
Youth camps in New Jersey, which can open on July 6, must meet specific HVAC requirements to get approval from the state to reopen their indoor facilities.
According to the NJ Department of Health summer camp standards document, “Camps must ensure that their indoor facilities have adequate ventilation, including operational heating, ventilation and air conditioning (“HVAC”) systems where appropriate. i. Recirculated air must have a fresh air component ii. Open windows if A/C is not provided iii. Filter(s) for A/C units must be maintained and changed according to manufacturer recommendations.”
And it won’t just be camp facilities keeping HVAC companies busy as states transition to the reopening phases for businesses and, eventually, schools.
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) Epidemic Task Force member M. Dennis Knight recommends buildings where HVAC systems haven’t been running–or have been running minimally–since pandemic closures should replicate the process of new construction with regards to inspection, start up, and testing a system. He also suggested building owners recommission or retrocommission their systems. COVID-19 is not the only concern for restarting systems that have been down. There are always concerns for the integrity of a system after it hasn’t been running consistently or had proper maintenance, Knight said.
ASHRAE has put out building safe readiness and reopening guidance, as well as offering information on filtration and disinfection.

Developers Seek Funding for Archer Towers Project, Continuing Trend in Multi-Family and Affordable Housing Expansions

In Mid-May, the first discussions of a new residential structure to come in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens were heard. BRP Companies expressed an interest in financing Archer Towers, a high-rise multi-family complex, and in the weeks since has listed it as one of their ongoing projects. They shall be partnering with investment firm JLL Capital Markets in order to secure funding to the tune of about $286 million. A previously completed building in the area includes the Crossing, a mixed-use structure directly across from the Jamaica Terminal. 

What Is the Basic Plan Behind the Archer Towers Project? 

Just a few blocks away from its neighbor, the Crossing, Archer Towers will also be a mixed-use project, combining residential and retail spaces within a single structure. Locals can conveniently do all their shopping within steps of their home, or skip to mass transit at the nearby terminal. Many residential projects with a similar intent have been cropping up over the last few years, with many neighborhoods favoring the mixed-use model. 

Other features and amenities (which by themselves will take up about 20,000 square feet)  include: 

  • Archer Towers will include 24 stories of space, comprising 540,000 square feet.
  • The residential spaces will be rentals with 424 market-rate units and then an additional 181 for mixed-income households. Phase II, to begin in 2021, promises another 400+ apartments, including 120 affordable housing units.
  • For fitness and wellness, residents will have an outdoor rooftop, a landscaped backyard space, a basketball court, and a yoga studio. 
  • For recreation, residents will have access to a lounge, a playroom for children, a pet spa, and a movie screening room. 

What Does the Road to Completion Look Like?

Demolition on the previous properties on the lot was completed in 2019. Even with delays related to COVID-19, the project was deemed essential, possibly thanks to its leanings toward affordable housing. Delays may continue because of the current effects of the epidemic, even as construction across the state begins to reopen.

Studio V Architecture is behind the design of the building, and early renderings have revealed sleek, modern aesthetics. Without any released data on the pricing for finished apartments, it is clear that more details are forthcoming, including the level of luxury the finished project will feature. 

With 24 stories to raise and then fill, and in the span of two phases, however, the Archer Towers project is promising multiple years of upcoming work for contractors and construction firms associated with it.