Author Archives: kyorio1528

Murphy Puts Focus on Fixing Water Infrastructure, Lead Issues

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy presented his state-of-the-state address this week and cited addressing water infrastructure issues and lead exposure as one of his priorities for the coming year.

Murphy spoke about the Newark water crisis last year and pledged to attack the lead issues—in pipes and paint—across the state in a way that would translate into a lot of jobs in the industry.

“We will need to mobilize a veritable army of union workers – plumbers and pipefitters, remediation experts, carpenters and laborers, among so many other tradespeople,” Murphy said.

But that work might not come this year despite the urgency. The governor admitted that the funding is not secured, and the amount needed is unknown at this point. He says it will require “a significant investment” and hopes to let the public decide on election day.

“Let’s work together, now, to come to an agreement on what this investment needs to be — so we can put it before the voters this November, and can invest in our communities that much faster,” he said.

As this is one of Murphy’s major initiatives for 2020, NJ residents can expect more details on his plan to tackle these issues and the possible number of jobs and projects that will be part of the solution in his budget address later in the year.

Pennsylvania Adds Funds for Construction Projects; Governor Pushes for Infrastructure Funding Program

January brings many state-of-the-state addresses by governors, who announce their priorities and budget plans for the coming year. In Pennsylvania, however, many counties didn’t have to wait for 2020’s speech to know some money was coming their way for infrastructure and construction needs. On December 30, Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of more than $5 million in funding through the Keystone Communities program for 42 revitalization projects that include construction and business development.

The following funds and projects were included in the governor’s announcement:

Bucks County

  • Quakertown: $50,000 façade grant for a façade improvement program in the designated Keystone Main Street area of Quakertown Borough, benefiting at least ten storefronts.
  • Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County: $50,000 façade grant for a façade improvement program in downtown Bristol, benefiting at least ten storefronts.

Delaware County

  • Lansdowne Economic Development Corp.: $50,000 to assist in the construction of the Lansdowne Maker Space, a 2,500-square-foot tech-based maker space.

Philadelphia County

  • City of Philadelphia: $250,000 for renovations to the Happy Hollow playground at the Happy Hollow Recreation Center in Germantown, to address the failing conditions of the playground and to restructure its layout, install new site furnishings and lighting, replace equipment, purchase and install safety surface material and new outdoor fitness equipment.

Wolf is also hoping his state legislature backs his Restore Pennsylvania multibillion-dollar capital plan that he proposed last year to help with the state’s infrastructure issues. Funding the plan requires a severance tax on natural gas and has met with resistance. Wolf recently tweeted that if the plan gets approved, some of that money can be used to help with the infrastructure issues in Philadelphia schools—including remediating contaminants such as asbestos.

Four Philadelphia schools had to close this school year because of asbestos. The superintendent recently outlined an Environmental Safety Improvement Plan, which will use $12 million in funds from its budget to speed up asbestos abatement in the impacted schools.

Passaic City Council Moves to Acquire Land for Redevelopment

Keep an eye on Passaic in the new year. Big redevelopment opportunities may be coming.

This week, the city council introduced a redevelopment plan and $1.6 million bond ordinance to buy a stretch of railroad track between Pulaski Park and Dundee Island Park, which broke ground last month on a re-design that calls for a new soccer field, playground, garden, amphiteater, and river walk.

The plan proposed for the 2.7-acre plot, which would connect the two parks, calls for up to 265 housing units, with an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the units being used for low- or moderate-income housing. There will also be retail space, as the mayor hopes to lure new businesses to a neighborhood that is known as a high crime area.

A public hearing on the bond ordinance and the redevelopment plan will be held on Jan. 7.

PATCO’s Franklin Square Station Project Secures Government Funding, On Track To Begin Construction Next Summer

The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) has secured funding to help with the renovation and reopening  of Philadelphia’s the Franklin Square Station.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded DRPA more than $12.5 million for renovation and reopening of the PATCO Franklin Square Station. The money is a Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program, which is used to invest in projects that will “have a significant local or regional impact.”

The DRPA will finance the rest of the cost of the proposed $30-million project to reopen the station, which has been shuttered for 40 years.

The architecture and engineering design phase is nearly complete, according to officials, and construction on the station–that has been closed since 1979–is expected to begin in late 2020. DRPA has set an opening date of Summer 2023, according to the PATCO press release announcing the funding.

The renovation and construction will improve the station’s civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical systems and  provide access in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the release that also said for riders to reach the concourse area, a new head house building will be constructed where the previous head house was located at the corner of 7th and Race Street.

The glass roof on the “head house” would not only allow for natural light but also a green roof of vegetation to help manage stormwater runoff and provide insulation.

When it reopens, Franklin Square will be the first stop on the Pennsylvania side of the Ben Franklin Bridge for the rail line that connects South Jersey to Philadelphia.

Employment and Spending Data Analyses Offers Cause for Celebration—and Concern

In the last two weeks, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released two reports, which combine to show a mixed picture of construction industry employment and spending.

Last week, AGC released an analysis of federal employment data from October 2018 to October 2019 that showed construction employment increased in 65 percent of U.S. metro areas. Despite the overall positive numbers nationwide, the Northeast took a hit. New York City had the largest number of job losses over that time period, losing 6,200, or four percent, of its construction jobs, according to the report. (Fairbanks, AK, had the biggest decrease by percentage, dropping 13 percent which was a loss of 400 jobs.)

The report also showed hourly craftworker positions remain difficult to fill despite the overall job gains. In response to that, the AGC officials “urged the Trump administration and Congress to make it easier to bring in workers for specific jobs that cannot be filled domestically and to strengthen career and technical education opportunities for students seeking alternatives to college.”

second analysis released this week showed construction spending declined .8 percent in October from September. The $1.291 trillion spent in October 2019 remained better than spending in October 2018 by 1.1 percent but, this year, decreases in private nonresidential, multifamily and public projects were too much to override an increase in construction of single-family homes, according to AGC’s analysis of federal spending data. The association blamed trade conflicts for the negative impact.

“Trade friction drags down U.S. economic growth,” AGC’s chief economist Ken Simonson said in a statement, adding, “Businesses that have been hurt by existing tariffs and retaliatory actions by U.S. trading partners or firms facing uncertainty over future trade policy are likely to hold off on construction projects.”

Morris County Courthouse Expansion Enters Design Phase

The long-awaited Morris County Courthouse Expansion has taken another step forward.

Last week, the schematic design phase began after the county freeholders awarded AECOM with the project. This decision followed years of proposals and discussions, according to the Daily Record.

While county officials may have debated the best and most cost-effective way to move forward, there was no question that an update was required. The oldest structure in the court facilities still in use was built in 1827, with several expansions and additions since—the last coming in 1989.

AECOM, based in Clifton, is charged with designing an environmentally friendly and energy efficient new secure criminal court facility and modern court space that would be attached to the County Administration and Records Building in Morristown. The company shared its design for the site off Schuyler Place, which is currently open air parking lot.

Solving one possible issue, the new design will not require the removal and replacement of the Morris County Tourism Bureau or Deidre’s House facility for young victims of abuse and neglect, according to the county’s announcement of this next step. Both of those buildings are on Court Street and adjacent to the site of the new criminal courts.

While the complete project is expected to cost $106 million total, the new courthouse is $62 million with an additional $44 million for renovations to the existing historic courthouse and five-story Administration and Records Building.

There is no exact timeline set yet. This Phase I of this proposed six-phase project is estimated to take 18 to 24 months.  In 2017, Dewberry-NJ Designers PC provided freeholders with a report called “Master Plan of Space Needs and Facilities Assessment,” which proposed the project be six phases with completion by 2030, according to the Daily Record.

Happy Days Farm in Exton, PA, Under Contract; Development Plans May Finally Move Forward

The 246-acre Happy Days Farm in Exton, PA, is now under contract by Audubon Land Development. But the plans for the development of the site at the Downingtown Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike are unknown.

The Happy Days site has sat untouched by construction for years while projects were proposed then abandoned. The Vanguard Group bought the property 20 years ago with the initial intention of using it to expand its corporate campus. It instead chose to do that somewhere else, leased the property and never developed the land.

The company put the property up for sale in the spring and its location made it incredibly attractive to developers. In fact, before Vanguard, multiple developers considered the property for retail and mixed-use sites.

The site is zoned for industrial and commercial use, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. That includes farming and the Vanguard tenant has been continuing to operate it as a working farm. The barn and fields of crops would obviously disappear, though, should the sale go through and Audubon move forward with development.

A commercial real estate management and development company based in southeastern Pennsylvania, Audobon’s projects include everything from offices and warehouses to retail centers, retirement communities, and hotels.

New Valley Hospital Starts Construction

After years of battling with residents over the proposed expansion of the current Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, the New Valley Hospital broke ground this month at its Paramus site.

A parade of politicians, shovels in hand, spoke at the ceremony, touting the future of the area’s healthcare system with the coming state-of-the-art, 372-bed facility. Construction on the 910,000-square-foot facility is expected to take more than three years. It will be a green building, that ranges from three to seven stories and rooftop gardens.

Along with the hospital building, there will be a five-story parking garage with more than 430 spaces. Twenty percent of the 28-acre site will be dedicated to open, green space.

The project is expected to create 600 construction jobs and cost $800 million.

Across the street from Valley’s cancer and same-day surgery center, the New Valley Hospital is scheduled to open in 2023. Once it does, the current hospital will provide outpatient services, including operating an urgent care center. The North Van Dien Avenue location could become the site of affordable housing in the future.

Big Plans Would Transform Delaware School District and Create Years of Construction  

Appoquinimink School District in Middletown, DE, has a big vision for its future. With an expected rise in student population, the district just opened a new elementary school in the district for this school year and has plans for five new schools and an early childhood center over the next five years.

Included in that plan are a new middle school and high school that are already in progress and scheduled to open in 2020. The other three schools and the early learning center need the December 17 referendum to pass. A new elementary school–for which they identified a new 25-acre site this week–and a new early childhood center both are planned to open in 2022.

There is another new high school and new middle school with opening dates in 2025 on the master plan.

Leading into the referendum vote, the district has an RFQ for Construction Management Services, which would entail review of design, value engineering, developing a construction schedule for a project that includes HVAC improvements, a new elementary school, a new kindergarten center, roof replacement and turf field renovations at one high school, a middle school stadium and multiple fields.

It is also seeking RFQs for Architecture and Engineering Services and plans to make multiple awards.

Both bid requests have Nov. 14 deadlines.

Mixed-Use Plans for Edgewater Site Remain Under Review

The Edgewater Golf Complex on River Road has been closed for two years, and the future of the 12.8-acre site remains up in the air—under review by the town’s planning board, to be more accurate.

Fort Lee-based developer Rich Mark Development Group wants to build a mixed-use, seven-story building at 575 River Rd. The construction would include 384 residential units and more than 53,000 square feet of commercial, office, and retail space. It would also have a rooftop pool, a public park, and a community plaza.

Among the 384 residential units, 19 would be three-bedroom townhomes, 264 would be two-bedroom units, and 101 would be one-bedroom units, Ted Osborne, the project’s architect, told the planning board during a hearing, according to an article on northjersey.com. There would also be 58 units designated for affordable housing.

The first two floors of the building would be a two-level “podium,” which would include a parking garage and two stories of commercial and retail space as well as access for the public to get to the commercial space and Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, according to Osborne.

Not unexpectedly for a property on River Rd, parking is the biggest issue. The purposed parking options would require the “one of the most significant variances” sought by the developer. The original plan offered 420 spaces when more than 1,000 off-street spots would be required, northjersey.com said.

After an October meeting with the planning board, the plans remain under review by the Edgewater Zoning Board of Adjustment.