Despite glitches in the way it has been administered, the Payroll Protection Program has so far helped hundreds of construction firms across the country stay open and maintain staff levels, according to a just-released industry survey.
Conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, the survey found that roughly 44 percent of responding firms said they had secured funds through the program, with another 15 percent saying their applications had been approved.
A smaller 8 percent of the 849 firms taking part in the survey said they had applied for loans under the program but had not yet received a response, while 7 percent of those applying said they had been informed that no more funds under the program were available, a response seen in other industries nationally that led to Congress approving an additional $310 billion in spending for the program.
Despite the need expressed by many contractors for more immediate financial assistance, a large 43 percent in the AGC survey said they would also like to see Congress approve a large federal infrastructure bill.
A smaller 35 percent came down in favor of a “pandemic risk insurance/covid-19 business and employee continuity and recovery fund,” with 33 percent opting for additional funding “for loan programs to maintain cash flows.”
Even though construction companies across the country have tried to push on with business since the COVID-19 outbreak was announced, 67 percent of the survey’s respondents reported that they had experienced either project delays or disruptions in the last month.
Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the AGC, said the responses to the survey showed that while the Payroll Protection Program has helped many, such funds are “likely to run out well before demand for construction rebounds.”
In a statement, Sandherr continued: “The President and Congress need to start putting in place measures to revive our economy by rebuilding our infrastructure and restoring private-sector demand for construction.”
By Garry Boulard
A plan to build up to four hundred new apartments in the town of Fountain Hills, Arizona may be determined by the results of a referendum election in late May.
The complex would be built on roughly 60 acres of hillside near the intersection of E. Shea Boulevard and N. Palisades Boulevard in a largely undeveloped section of the town and is being called Daybreak.
As proposed by two developers, the project would include a dozen individual apartment buildings with garages, a swimming pool, and a clubhouse.
Although the Fountain Hills Town Council earlier approved a rezoning application for the project, opponents gathered enough signatures to put on the ballot two questions, one of which would simply affirm or reject the decision of the council.
Previous to the council vote, the Planning and Zoning Commission of Fountain Hills declared itself in opposition to the project.
The other ballot question would, if passed, alter the site’s current zoning designation from lodging to multi-family/medium.
Opponents have expressed concern that, once built, the complex will obstruct views of the nearby McDowell Mountains, while also increasing traffic in the area.
The project is partly in response to the need for more housing in a southwest town that has been listed in recent years by the Census Bureau as one of the fastest-growing localities in Arizona.
Fountain Hill’s current 25,000 population is more than twice what it was in the 1990s.
By Garry Boulard
After months of often rancorous debate regarding the construction of a $180 million multi-purpose arena in downtown El Paso, the project may be shelved due to the economic fallout surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Members of the El Paso City Council are considering a vote to suspend the project, based on a proposal by two members who are also calling to suspend any demolition related to the project, as well as design work and archaeological surveying.
The proposed Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center has been an ongoing headache for city officials since it was first announced in the fall of 2016.
Opponents of the project, objecting to a plan to build it in the city’s historic Duranguito neighborhood, have held rallies, argued before the council, and filed a series of suits in court to stop it from going forward.
Although earlier this year the Texas State Supreme Court handed the City of El Paso an important victory when it said it would not review litigation on the matter, opponents have filed a new suit in the Eighth Court of Appeals of El Paso County challenging the project.
In a statement given to the El Paso Times, Mayor Dee Margo, a long-time proponent of the arena, characterized the proposal by city representatives Alexsandra Annello and Claudio Rodriguez as “politicizing the pandemic.”
The proposal as submitted to the council by Annello and Rodriguez specifically calls for “action on suspending the construction” of the arena “in order to diminish the financial impact of the COVID-19 impact and reduce the debt burden.”
By Garry Boulard
Looking at the need for upgrading security systems at all of its schools, as well as expanding its athletic, childcare, and performing arts facilities, members of the Aspen School Board are contemplating putting on this November’s ballot a bond to pay for it all.
What will probably be a $30 million bond will also fund the construction of a new bus barn, while allowing the district to build new employee housing. Those housing units will go up on the more than 40 properties that the Aspen School District owns in the area.
District officials are particularly concerned about the costs of any new facility construction or upgrade projects given that they expect to see a $3 million decline in revenue coming from Colorado’s School Finance Act.
That legislation, passed in 1994, sends money to Colorado’s school districts based upon the amount of tax revenue generated by those districts.
The last time voters in the Aspen School District decided on a facility funding issue was in 2005 when a $33 million bond was approved. That bond ended up paying for the construction of the Aspen Middle School, as well as additions to the Aspen Elementary School and Aspen High School.
By law, the Aspen school board must decide by July 2 whether to approve a bond proposal for the November election.
By Garry Boulard
The economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak are being felt throughout all twelve of the Federal Reserve Bank’s districts, according to the most recent issues of the Beige Book.
That publication, which comes out eight times a year and is a summation of the opinions of economists, business leaders, and others in the Federal Reserve Districts, says that interview responses this spring reveal “highly uncertain outlooks among business contacts, with most expecting conditions to get worse in the next several months.”
On the employment front, respondents indicated that job losses in the last few weeks have been “widespread, including the manufacturing and energy sectors.”
“The hardest-hit industries because of social distancing measures and mandated closures, were leisure and hospitality and retail, aside from essential goods,” the report continued.
Despite the job losses, company and business owners indicated their intention to hire back many of the laid-off employees once the coronavirus recedes.
Regarding conditions in western Texas and southern New Mexico, which make up a part of the Federal Reserve’s 11th district, the Beige Book reports that multifamily contractors said the impact of COVID-19 will become more evident in the months ahead, while a “number of land and commercial real estate transactions have been delayed or cancelled as investors take a wait-and-see approach.”
District 10 includes northern New Mexico and Colorado, where, according to the publication, “commercial real estate conditions deteriorated moderately.”
“Residential sales and inventories were flat compared to the previous survey despite a seasonal pickup, and were below year-ago levels,” the report continued, adding that construction projects and retails sales generally showed a decline.
“In the Mountain West, commercial projects generally proceeded, though new project proposals declined noticeably,” the Beige Book noted of activity in District 12, which includes Arizona.
“Some reports highlighted the potential for building owners to face strain if commercial tenants are unable to make rental payments,” the publication added of District 12’s current market dynamics.
By Garry Boulard
The sprawling El Paso International Airport encompasses nearly 6,700 acres, the vast majority of which are given over to the airport’s terminal, various operational facilities, and three runways.
But like other major metropolitan airports, EPIA owns and maintains a significant amount of surrounding acreage, much of which has been slated for future non-airport development.
One such property is comprised of the 18-hole Butterfield Trail Golf Course, located at 1858 Cottonwoods Drive in east El Paso.
That course, designed by nationally known golf course architect Tom Fazio, was opened by EPIA some thirteen years ago at a cost of $11 million and is regarded as one of the finest such courses in the southwest.
Despite its positive reputation, the 25-acre course in recent years has been losing money, a pattern seen in golf courses across the country due to what industry analysts say is an oversaturation of the market.
Such dynamics have led to the closing of around 800 golf courses nationally in the last decade, a number that the Butterfield course seemed destined to join earlier this year when the EPIA announced its closure.
EPIA officials said a plan to close the course was partially due to a decline in passenger revenue at the airport since the COVID-19 outbreak.
But now an El Paso developer has stepped in with a plan that will not only keep the Butterfield course open, but may well lead to the mixed-use development of other currently vacant EPIA properties.
Russell Hanson, owner of the El Paso-based Hanson Asset Management, has offered to take over the Butterfield course in return for purchasing just over 150 acres adjacent to the course that belong to EPIA.
Hanson, in a Letter of Intent to the EPIA, said he would like to eventually see a combination of residential, commercial, and industrial development on the land.
There has been no official response yet from the EPIA, which in recent years has mulled the possibility of selling the golf course without making a decision one way or the other.
Hanson has been extensively involved in real estate development projects in both El Paso and southern New Mexico.
It was earlier reported that the Hanson Development Corporation was one of the largest housing developers in El Paso.
By Garry Boulard
A largely abandoned site in midtown Fort Collins, at the corner of South College Avenue and West Drake Road, may soon see the construction of a 124,000 square foot grocery store.
That store will belong to the Denver-based King Soopers grocery store chain, which is a subsidiary of the Kroger Company.
King Soopers has submitted plans to the City of Fort Collins calling for a one-story store with a modern design that will also have a small plaza and community space area on the southeast side of the building.
Before construction can begin, the building once housing the Kmart store which closed in the spring of 2016, will be demolished.
Another structure that currently contains a small convenience store at the northwest corner of the site will also be demolished and left open for future development.
Even though the Kmart store was closed four years ago, Kroger had purchased the site for around $8 million more a decade ago.
The new store, branded as a King Soopers Marketplace, will be nearly twice as large as the chain’s typical stores, which measure around 65,000 to 75,000 square feet.
The popular King Soopers chain has more than 150 stores, with locations in both Colorado and Wyoming.
By Garry Boulard
The final federal rules pertaining to building and development projects along the nation’s waterways have now been released.
The Federal Register has just published the latest version of the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” and in so doing a two-month timeline has been launched before the new rule becomes effective nationally.
As proposed by the Trump Administration, the rule provides a new definition of what comprises the “waters of the United States,” and will decrease the number of federal permits that builders and developers have been required to fill out for projects related to waterways.
Contractors have charged that the rules have been burdensome, affecting everything from work on a pond on private property to man-made ditches.
An editorial published by the National Association of Home Builders complained that increasingly home builders were required to “obtain additional or more onerous permits.”
The new rule, as seen in some quarters, will provide certainty regarding federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, said in a statement that the new rule “takes steps to protect lakes, ponds, streams, and other tributaries, while providing that certainty to our ag producers.”
But a number of environmental groups have expressed their opposition to the new rule. The National Resources Defense Council has announced plans to sue the Trump Administration over the rule change.
In a statement, Jim Murphy, legal advocacy director with the National Wildlife Federation, remarked: “We cannot afford to further put our public health at risk or lose protection for half or our remaining wetlands.”
By Garry Boulard
A Request for Proposals has been issued by the Albuquerque Public Schools system asking for the design of a new school that will go up within the borders of the Kirtland Air Force Base on the southeast side of the city.
APS officials have frequently talked about replacing the two-story Sandia Base Elementary School, whose official address is 21001 Wyoming SE, and is regarded as outdated.
The school serves as the home to nearly 500 students made up of the children of families living on the base as well as those from the surrounding neighborhood.
The RFP is asking for an architectural vision of what the new school might look like, offering a schematic design and design development, among other documents.
The school was a part of the original Sandia Base, providing instruction for thousands of students in the post-World War II decades, before that base was merged with Kirtland in 1971.
An extensive renovation of the facility, which also saw the construction of several new classrooms, was undertaken in the early 1990s at a cost of $718,000.
APS hopes to eventually secure up to $22.5 million in funding from the Department of Defense for the new school in a multiple award construction contract.
The submission deadline for the RFP is May 8.
By Garry Boulard
Work could begin sometime this summer on the construction of a new 15,000 square foot Singing Arrow Community Center on the southeast side of Albuquerque.
The $5 million project will go up just to the south of the Four Hills Village Center and is designed to replace the current center within the borders of the Singing Arrow Park.
Initially, city officials had planned to simply renovate the existing community center, which is actually made up of two structures, but an assessment study released in 2013 said that a larger facility could serve more people in a part of Albuquerque where nearly a third of residents have incomes of less than $25,000.
The current centers hosts a number of recreational events for area youths, while also housing community meeting rooms, a computer room, and lab space.
A blueprint for the new center, as developed by the Albuquerque-based Consensus Planning, shows a facility with classrooms, game rooms, offices, and storage space, among other features, as well as outdoor recreation space.
Funding for the project is coming from General Obligation Bonds earlier approved by Albuquerque voters, as well as State of New Mexico capital outlay funds.
By Garry Boulard
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