Category Archives: construction

Medical Marijuana Sparks Facilities Construction

Construction of medical marijuana facilities and distribution centers has become a consistent piece of industry business in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  And as legalizing recreational marijuana is discussed in state legislatures throughout the country, there is growing possibility that more of these facilities will be needed.

Right now there are four projects either in planning or under construction in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In October, a project was completed in Chester, PA.

There are specific considerations when building such a facility, according to the Cannabis Business Times, including designing for the proper air flow and humidity and availability of power and water. And of course, as with any construction, location is key.

In Green Township, NJ, discussions are underway about what to do with the Trinca Airport Redevelopment site. A medical marijuana facility is a possibility, although critics say it would violate the Drug Free School Zone laws. A solar farm is also an option there.

Meanwhile, a spring 2020 target date has been set for a 70,000-square-foot Agronomed Medical Marijuana Growing & Processing Facility on a nearly nine acre site in Chester, PA; the Harmony Foundation Medical Marijuana Facility at the Merck Site in Lafayette, NJ, has a target date in the third quarter of this year; and applications for a final site plan have been approved for a project in Rochelle Park, NJ.

The Harmony job consists of two-story, 282,000-square-foot facility with one existing building on the site renovated for administration, research and development space. Two lanes of roadway will also be added in an attempt to reduce any added traffic.

In Rochelle Park, the plan calls for a medical marijuana facility of more than 7,000 square feet in a space currently occupied by an antique store. In addition, there would be construction of a six-story self-storage facility with more than 120,000 square feet at the site of an existing retail center.

Industry Braces for Impact of Tax Abatement Changes in Philadelphia

Philadelphia had a record-setting year for new construction in 2019, according to the number of permits issued by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. The majority of the more than 2,100 permits issued were for single-family housing and most was in Center City’s surrounding neighborhoods. But developers fear a change in the 10-year tax abatement, which was passed at the end of last year, will slow the market and development.

Philadelphia has had a 10-year tax abatement of real estate taxes for new residential construction since the 1970s. It allowed developers to be tax-free for 10 years and was enacted to boost construction in the city. After a contentious debate, however, the legislation passed an amendment to the abatement. Now, the first year will provide developers with a 100 percent exemption on taxes, but there will be a 10 percent decrease per year after that. After 10 years, the tax exemption would end.

In a compromise to those opposed to the change, the new abatement won’t be implemented until December 31, 2020. There is some speculation this could produce a mini-boom of residential housing before the abatement ends in his current form, or boost new commercial real estate projects, according to Joseph Gibson, a researcher at commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE.

One prominent building already under construction—the Arthaus condominiums from Dranoff Properties—will not escape the new tax law. The 108-unit, 47 story building at 309 South Broad Street is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

High Hopes for Mixed-Use, Transit-Oriented Project in East Brunswick

Commuting is often a necessary evil for New Jersey residents, but plans for a new mixed-used, transit-oriented development in East Brunswick aim to make it a little more pleasant—at least at the start and end of each day.

The $500 million project along the Route 18 corridor will have a bus terminal and commuter parking structure at the core of a site with 800 residential units, as well as retail shops, restaurants, a hotel, tech center, medical office building, outdoor amphitheater, indoor/outdoor pet facility, public plaza, and pedestrian walkways.

For those already worried about traffic in and out of the development, the plan includes the creation of parallel side streets to allow for alternate routes. And the developer, River Development, hopes to work with the state’s Department of Transportation to add a left-turn only lane onto Route 18 off of Edgeboro Rd.

The project will also revitalize the township, and specifically the 44-acre site on Route 18 between Ruth Street and Lake Street.

“This commercial corridor, one that sits right at the center of New Jersey, that still sees over 100,000 cars each day, that connects New Brunswick and Rutgers to the Shore, that sits at the cross-section of almost every major highway in New Jersey, that is equidistant between New York City and Philadelphia, is in desperate need of revitalization, and that is exactly what we’ve spent the last two years doing,” East Brunswick mayor Brad Cohen said earlier this month when the East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency released renderings for the project.

The project is expected to be three phases over the next five to seven years and, when it’s done, Cohen wants it to have something for everyone.

“We have aimed to create a true transit-oriented development which meets the needs of residents and consumers of the 21st century,” Cohen said. “We want to create a community that appeals to all age groups, including those starting out and those looking to downsize.”

Property acquisition continues and work will include the demolition of existing structures on the property, which is expected to begin this summer.

Hoboken Plans Water Main, Park and Light Rail Projects

It’ll be a busy year of growth and upgrades in Hoboken if mayor Ravi Bhalla can put his plans into action.
On Wednesday, Bhalla outlined his 2020 priorities for the Hudson County city. Among them, working with developers and stakeholders on a new light rail station at 15th Street to meet the needs of a growing North End.
In more immediate construction, the city plans to replace more than 2.7 miles of water mains this year. It is part of a larger overhaul of the water infrastructure and the city will use independent funding, including proceeds from the SUEZ agreement that provides $33 million in water main upgrades over the next 15 years.
Bhalla also prioritized the city’s parks. There will be renovations at Legion Park in North Hoboken, including modern playground equipment for children with special needs, as well as at Jefferson Park in South Hoboken, which will also get new playground equipment. But kids aren’t the only ones who can look forward to a better play place this year. The dog parks at Church Square Park and Stevens Park will get “modern canine turf” with the new runs modeled after the ones at 2nd and Hudson streets.
He also talked about the Union Dry Dock plans, which many may have thought had died.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate my administration’s unwavering commitment to securing Union Dry Dock to create a waterfront park,” he said. “While you may not have heard many updates recently, rest assured that we are making real progress behind the scenes with both New York Waterway and the Governor’s office. I’m optimistic that we will finally see a positive ending this year that preserves Union Dry Dock for public, open space.”

His emphasis on keeping park and waterfront space means a promise to prevent development in parts of the city.

“Defending our precious waterfront from massive overdevelopment also includes preventing the two Monarch towers in Northern Hoboken,” he said. “This year, a central priority of mine is to work with the Council to finalize an agreement that would prevent, once and for all, large scale development along our northern waterfront.”

College Square Is a Delaware Redevelopment Project To Watch in 2020

There are many large development projects underway in Delaware this year. Among them is the redevelopment of a 325,000 square-foot shopping center into the College Square Williams Crossing Retail and Apartments in New Castle. The 46.10-acre property will now be the site for a mixed-use plaza with 305 residential units in two four-story apartment buildings.

Plans to renovate to the outdated retail center have been in the works for years, but the final plans were approved last March and demolition began in August. The residential units are expected to be primarily one and two bedrooms, with some three-bedroom units. The complex will also include a business center, fitness center, media room, and outdoor pool.

There will be some retail as well, with some stores, along with a coffee shop and restaurants expected. No tenants have been announced. New Castle-based developer Fusco Enterprises also plans to build a road through the center and offer some green space with a community plaza with tables and benches.

Previous renovation on the north side of the square will remain part of the new property. No timeline has been set, but Fusco attorneys have said the developer hopes to have it completed within two years.

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.