Rail infrastructure construction could be nearing the $6 billion mark in the next 7 years, says a report from an independent research group that is also predicting increased passenger use and expanded rail routes.
Published by the Dublin, Ireland-based Research and Markets, Ltd., the report, U.S. Rail Infrastructure Market Size and Forecast, also notes a surprising new source of construction fueled by rail growth: the resurgence of neighborhoods adjacent to the nation’s rail yards and stations.
Because of the growing popularity of commuter transit lines, those neighborhoods, for years the residences of rail workers, are now being redeveloped into upscale mixed-use properties.
The report notes that overall light rail passenger has increased by 4.3 percent nationally with such cities as Phoenix, Houston, and New Orleans witnessing double-digit jumps.
The report’s predicted increase in rail infrastructure is partly based on the impressively diverse nature of the nation’s rail industry which today is made up of 21 regional railroads and more than 500 local railroads.
There are also currently more than 140,000 miles operated in the U.S. by Class I railroads.
A synopsis of the report adds that the “rebuilding of tunnels, tracks, bridges, and signals systems is anticipated to upgrade private rail networks” between now and 2025.
By Garry Boulard
Plans are well underway on a project that could see the extensive transformation of a former 60,000 square-foot grocery store, along with a nearby park, in the city of Broomfield, Colorado.
City leaders in Broomfield have long wanted to create a more dynamic community walking and gathering space that would prove inviting to both residents as well as visitors.
In consultation with the Denver-based Civitas, Inc., a landscape architecture firm, Broomfield is now contemplating a plan that will repurpose an abandoned Safeway store at 6775 W. 120th Avenue and turn it into a combined retail and common area space.
The store, which was closed in the summer of 2014, would have 25,000 square feet devoted entirely to retail; 15,000 square feet for collaborative space; and a combined 20,000 square feet for both community space and a common area.
Across East 1st Avenue from the former Safeway is the Broomfield Community Park, whose official address is 3 Community Park Road.
As currently discussed, the area surrounding a pond inside the park could see the development of both retail and restaurant space, as well as a group of houses joined by a common sidewalk, a 100-room hotel, and some 365 housing units.
City officials are also considering the possibility of expanding the pond itself.
How much the redevelopment of both the former Safeway store and the nearby park will cost has not yet been determined, but proponents of the plan hope to have firm numbers later this year.
By Garry Boulard
One of the marquee projects coming out of El Paso’s 2012 Quality of Life bonds is on the verge of clearing a final hurdle.
The original proposal to build the El Paso Children’s Museum carried with it a $19 million price tag.
But the project, to go up in downtown El Paso, has steadily increased in cost, as the vision for it has steadily expanded. That vision has, to a large degree, been shaped through a series of public input meetings asking residences for their views on the museum’s look, functionality, and mission.
Last year, three noted architectural firms - TEN Arquitectos of Mexico City, Snohetta of Oslo, Norway; and Koning Eizenberg Architecture of Santa Monica, California - submitted competing concepts of what the museum should look like.
The various ideas presented by those firms premised the idea that the museum should be a fun place, and both airy and educational, with an emphasis on U.S./Mexico border themes.
In the process, the timetable for building the new museum, which originally called for construction to begin this year, has been delayed, while the facility’s estimated cost has increased to $60 million.
It is now hoped that members of the El Paso City Council will sign on to $40 million in public funding for the project, with an additional $20 million coming from private donations raised through the El Paso Community Foundation.
In 2016, the council approved spending $1.2 million to purchase a site for the museum at 201 W. Main Street that was the home of a Greyhound Bus Lines maintenance garage. That facility has since been demolished.
By Garry Boulard
Funding to the tune of $1 million has been secured for the construction of a new manufacturing facility that will go up on Isleta Boulevard in Albuquerque.
The Partnership for Community Action has announced that it will be build a 15,370 square foot building designed to house manufacturing and the assembling of textiles, as well as both entrepreneurial and workforce training.
The $1 million is coming in the form of a grant from the Economic Development Administration wing of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Economic Development Administration is designed to partner with local community organizations with the goal of fostering collaboration, job creation, and innovation.
In announcing the grant, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said services at the new facility will provide the tools “businesses need to compete and thrive in the global economy.”
The new facility will be built in partnership with the Southwest Creations Collaborative, another nonprofit that currently employs 36 women in a clothing manufacturing facility.
Altogether, the new building will cost $3 million to build. Additional funding is coming from several other sources.
The Partnership for Community Action, with offices at 722 Isleta Boulevard SW, was founded in 1990 and focuses on education, economic sustainability, and immigrant right issues primarily in the South Valley.
By Garry Boulard
More than 11,500 new construction jobs were filled in the last year in the Arizona metro area made up of Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale, accounting for a 10 percent increase in such employment in the last 12 months.
That job growth, according to a report just issued by the Associated General Contractors of America, ranked as the second greatest industry employment jump in the nation, behind only the Dallas/Plano/Irving, Texas metro area, which saw the addition of 14,200 new construction jobs from May 2017 to May 2018.
Altogether, according to the AGC report, construction employment increased in the past year in 263 out of a reporting 358 metro areas nationally, with only 47 such areas reporting declines.
Demand for construction employment in the Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale area is expected to increase for the rest of the year, particularly in the home building, mixed-used, and apartment building sectors.
The strong local labor market comes on the heels of a report issued earlier this spring by the U.S. Census Bureau saying that Maricopa County led the nation in 2017 in population growth, adding nearly 74,000 new residents between 2016 and 2017.
Overall, Maricopa County is now the fourth most populous county in the entire country, with some 4.3 million people living there, up from 3.8 million in 2010.
The area’s construction jobs have been additionally fueled by the building of new hospitals, student housing, and offices.
By Garry Boulard
A new hotel may soon be going up on the current site of a former police annex building in downtown Pueblo.
AAA Hotel Developers, which has developed and operates a host of hospitality facilities in other Colorado locations, is asking for city approval to build at 150 Central Main Street.
Members of the Pueblo City Council have recently approved spending $190,000 to demolish the one-story 1970s-era annex, which is owned by the city.
Although a California real estate developer has also submitted a proposal to build a hotel at the same site, AAA Hotel Developers, which is based in Pueblo, has told the city it is better qualified to take on the project.
If constructed, the new hotel will be part of larger project in Pueblo to create a kind of baseball district that will also include a nearby new stadium.
Although specific details regarding AAA Hotel Developer’s plans for the Central Main Street site have not been released, the company’s experience in hotel development is extensive.
It has developed national brand hotels in the cities of Golden, Lamar, and Pueblo, and is currently in the process of planning for the construction of a 72-room Towne Place Suites, which will go up across from Pueblo’s Historic Arkansas Riverwalk.
By Garry Boulard
In a city where the median household income is about $30,000 higher than the national average, the market for upscale apartments remains strong.
In response to that market, SEEC Enterprises has announced plans to build a 280-apartment unit complex in Longmont, Colorado that will go by the name of Brick Stone Apartments Longmont.
The project is planned for a currently vacant site at the intersection of Great Western Drive and East 3rd Avenue, roughly a mile away from the River Bend Townhomes, where condominiums list between $200,000 to $300,000.
The Boulder-based SEEC Enterprises has developed similarly upscale multi-story apartment projects in Denver, Fort Collins, and Salt Lake City.
Plans for the Brick Stone Apartments Longmont call for the construction of eight individual buildings containing one, two, and three-bedroom units. The project will also feature a clubhouse, swimming pool, and pocket park.
At least 28 of the units will be designated as affordable housing.
The project is currently under development review by the City of Longmont.
Contractor satisfaction with current economic conditions remains overwhelmingly positive heading into mid-2018, according to a report just released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Commercial Construction Index is a report issued by the Chamber every three months that compiles the market outlook of hundreds of contractors and builders across the country.
The most recent index reveals that 79 percent of respondents said their business as of the spring of this year has remained strong, with an increase in work backlogs.
In a separate question, 41 percent of respondents said their project load has increased in just the last three months.
The same index also indicates that contractors have a highly positive view of sustainability and energy efficiency work, with around 75 percent reporting that their customers are regularly asking for the use of energy efficient materials in given projects.
But, in one more sign of industry concern regarding the ongoing shortage of labor, those same contractors said they have experienced difficulties in trying to find skilled workers who are proficient in the use of green building materials.
Next to the labor shortage issue, the other dark cloud threatening the industry is the steel and aluminum tariff increases imposed earlier this year by the Trump Administration.
Some 86 percent of respondents indicated that they expect to see either “moderate to severe impacts on their businesses in the next three years from recently-imposed tariffs.”
“During the past twelve months, only a small percentage of contractors reported concern over how material cost fluctuations would impact their business,” the report notes. “However, in the current quarter that percentage more than doubled to 38 percent.”
“This finding is a reflection of uncertainty about materials costs due to the possibility of tariffs and trade wars, as well as rising interest rates,” the report asserts.
By Garry Boulard
Voters in Tucson may be looking at an unprecedentedly large general obligation bond this November that will fund up to $225 million in city-wide park construction and upgrade projects.
Members of the Tucson City Council have given their preliminary approval to placing the bond question on this fall’s ballot, arguing that the city’s well-used parks are in dire need of upgrading.
If the proposal finally makes it to the ballot and is approved by voters, the bond will fund upwards of three hundred individual park and recreation center projects.
Those projects include the construction of new baseball and soccer fields, splash pads, playgrounds, bathrooms, and walking and biking paths.
An initial breakdown of the bond calls for $105 million to be spent on general city park upgrades and improvements; $13 million for the construction of aquatic facilities across Tucson; $10 million for new sports field lighting; and just over $5 million for improvements to two city-run golf courses.
The largest segment of the bond, representing some $67 million in funding, would go for safety improvements for pedestrians and bike-riders, which could result in the installation of new traffic signals throughout the city.
City officials say that the use and pressure on the more than 120 parks owned and operated by Tucson has increased, along with a population boom that has added some 50,000 new residents in the last decade and a half for a current population of 535,000.
A more thorough proposal detailing each project to be funded is expected to be presented to the city council early next month, in front of a deadline for getting the question on the November ballot.
By Garry Boulard
A well-attended theater in downtown Gilbert, Arizona that stages up to a dozen locally-produced musicals and comedy plays a year needs more space.
The 11,000 square-foot Hale Center Theater, at 50 West Page Avenue, was built in 2002 and has proven a success, offering family entertainment fare and catering to both locals and the thousands of tourists who vacation in Gilbert every winter.
Plans submitted to the Gilbert Redevelopment Commission are calling for an 11,000 square-foot expansion to the theater, which sits on a 1.1-acre site in the town’s Heritage District.
That new space, according to commission documents, would house a dance studio, scene production space, offices, costume storage space, and a small retail store.
The project will also include the construction of an entry canopy and front-lit marquee, as well as the creation of parking space for up to two dozen vehicles.
If the expansion project secures final Town of Gilbert approval, work could begin later this year.
By Garry Boulard
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