Blighted areas outside the El Paso metro area as well as across Texas may see the building of more infrastructure and transportation projects, depending upon the fate of a statewide proposition to be voted upon next Tuesday.
Proposition 2, otherwise known as the Authorize Counties to Issue Infrastructure Bonds in Blighted Areas Amendment, was put on the ballot as a result of a vote earlier this year in both houses of the Texas State Legislature.
If passed, the proposition will give counties in the Lone Star State a new means of funding needed transportation improvements via tax increment financing.
Supporters of the proposition say it will not only open the way for infrastructure construction and upgrades in parts of the state where such work is most needed but will also serve as a catalyst for economic development in those areas.
The group Texas Rail Advocate says that, if passed, the proposition will “give counties the same ability to build much needed infrastructure and transportation projects that cities and town already have.”
An anti-tax organization called Texas United for Reform has come out in opposition to the proposition saying it will ultimately increase local and county debt.
If history provides guidance, Proposition 2’s chances for success appear promising. In the last 25 years more than 90% of all amendments appearing on a Texas statewide ballot have won voter approval.
By Garry Boulard
The U.S. construction industry is on line to grow by as much as 3.7% next year, according to a new forecast.
Noting that the industry’s residential sector has been a star performer as the country climbs out of its Covid-19 slowdown, the company Research and Markets notes that the sector is “supported by low mortgage rates, strong demand for bigger living spaces, and a very low housing inventory in the market.”
The report, Construction in the United States 2021, predicts that “residential construction will continue to grow over the coming quarters.”
The publication additionally notes that that growth will come in the face of “ongoing supply chain challenges, including the shortage of building materials and rising prices, lack of skilled labor, and expensive land,” according to a press release.
Based in Dublin, Ireland, Research Markets is the largest market research firm in the world, analyzing trends in everything from the healthcare and energy sectors to the transportation and food and beverages industries.
Charting an overall 2021 construction industry growth at 1.8%, the publication takes notes of the Biden Administration’s massive infrastructure bill, still awaiting Congressional approval, which includes “long-term investments on transport, energy, utilities, and climate-related initiatives.”
That 1.8% charted growth is a significant improvement over the research firm’s February projections which forecast a 0.6% decline in the industry for this year.
A separate report published by the company anticipates a current $946 billion global construction industry to grow by a third in the next four years.
By Garry Boulard
Yet one more growing school district in southern Arizona with an increasing need for facility funding. Based in Gilbert, which has seen a more than 200% growth in population in the last three decades, the Higley United School District is asking voters to approve a $95 million bond that will be partly used to buy land for the construction of a new school.
The Higley district has also witnessed unprecedented growth, more than doubling its enrollment numbers since the year 2000 to the current number of just over 13,500 students.
As proposed, the capital bond will also provide up to $27 million for a series of classroom additions and upgrade projects district-wide.
The bond will also fund any number of facility security upgrade initiatives, with $11 million targeting major maintenance projects including the replacement of HVAC systems and installing new roofing and flooring.
District officials have maintained that the bond is particularly needed to help make up for a loss of state funding, now in excess of $4.5 billion. While some of that funding has been partially restored, an official statement from the Higley district says that the state restoration has not been “sufficient to accommodate expected growth in the district.”
A district measuring around 24 square miles, Higley also serves the equally growing town of Queen Creek.
By Garry Boulard
A massive retail chain company with around 17,600 outlets is planning on continuing expansion efforts into the new year.
Based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, the Dollar General Corporation has seen significant retail growth throughout the months of the Covid-19 lockdown, announcing plans earlier this year to build at least 1,050 new stories in 2021.
The variety store chain’s expansion comes on the heels of a 2020 building effort seeing the addition of another 1,000 stores, along with the remodeling of 1,750 existing locations.
According to the New York-based company Coresight Research, Dollar General’s 1,000-plus new stores this year dwarfs the efforts of other variety stores such as Dollar Tree, building just under 400 new stores, and Aldi at exactly one hundred stores.
Three months ago, the company, with nearly $34 billion in revenue last year, announced that roughly 75% of Americas today live no less than five miles from a Dollar General location.
Work is currently underway on a new Dollar General store in Athol, Idaho. Upon completion this spring, the chain will now have outlets in 47 states.
If all goes as planned, by the end of this year Dollar General will have also relocated around one hundred of its stores.
In its most recent financial report, the company reported up to $1.2 billion in capital expenditures for this fiscal year, with $248 million on store upgrades, along with $19 million for information systems upgrades.
While the company has not announced its specific expansion plans for 2022, analysts believe any plans will be on track to equal the company’s building of more than 2,000 stores since early 2020.
By Garry Boulard
The campaign both in favor of and against a proposed multi-use soccer stadium in Albuquerque is heating up and engaging voters across the city just days before the November election.
In August members of the Albuquerque City Council voted in favor of putting on the ballot a $50 million bond proposal that, if finally approved by the voters of Albuquerque, would be used to pay for the structure’s construction.
The stadium would belong to the New Mexico United soccer team, which is based in Albuquerque and was formed some 3 years ago.
The project has been in the talking stage for several years, but has slowly progressed, with the New Mexico State Legislature last year approving more than $4 million to be mostly used for land acquisition for the project.
But as the fall campaign has unfolded, various groups have announced their opposition to the project, criticizing a study suggesting that the structure could be built adjacent to several working-class neighborhoods.
One group called Stop the Stadium has characterized the project as gentrification organized by “local elites overseeing pro-corporate development projects.”
Meanwhile, an ethics complaint has been filed against the Stop the Stadium group, charging that it is operating as a political action committee but hasn’t registered as one.
A group in support of the bond called NM United for All, according to public records, has spent upwards of $330,000 in October on advertising and signs.
One poll taken earlier in October showed only 23% of respondents in favor of the proposal. A more recent poll put that figure at 37%. Those opposing the stadium have marginally decreased from 59% to 55%.
By Garry Boulard
City officials in Colorado Springs are reviewing a proposal that could see the construction of the tallest high rise ever built in the city on a site that is currently used partly as a parking lot.
The downtown mixed-use project would also include an 11-story building housing Class A office space, as well as a 109,000 square foot parking garage with enough space for just over 400 vehicles.
The centerpiece of the project, at 25 stories, would see the construction of 316 upscale apartments made up of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, as well as studios. In all, the residential space would comprise 47,500 square feet.
The office structure will include 33,500 square feet of ground floor retail.
As proposed by The O’Neil Group, a development company based in the city, the project would be built off Vermijo Avenue, just to the south of the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts.
According to papers submitted by the O’Neil Group to the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority the project represents “the first new private development along what the City has deemed a signature street in the heart of downtown.”
Before any construction begins, the developers are hoping to have all or part of the property designated as an urban renewal site, which would make it eligible for tax-increment financing. That financing could cover the costs of a variety of infrastructure work.
If ultimately built, the 25-story project would break the Colorado Springs height record set with the construction of the 16-floor Wells Fargo Tower in 1990.
If city approval is secured, work on the high rise is expected to begin by next summer.
By Garry Boulard
A project that will see the construction of both a teeming entertainment district as well as a technology park on the main Albuquerque campus of the University of New Mexico is taking an important step forward.
The school’s board of regents last month gave their approval to a master development agreement that will see construction of the entertainment district and park on the university’s south campus.
Now members of the Albuquerque City Council have voted in favor of authorizing the creation of a tax-increment development district that will be used to fund some of the project.
Such districts are commonly created for gross receipts and property tax revenues purposes that are, in turn, applied to a project’s infrastructure construction expenses.
The entertainment district/technology park project has been in the talking and planning stage for several years. As proposed, the entertainment district, to be built near the intersection of University Boulevard and Avenido Cesar Chavez, will see the construction of retail space, as well as restaurants and bars.
The 90-acre site will also see the building of a science and technology research center.
Spearheaded by the UNM’s Lobo Development Corporation, the entertainment district has been described as an “active, retail-centric community experience.”
By Garry Boulard
As the big ports of Los Angeles and New York continue to grapple with a logjam of cargo ships, which is have an impact on store supplies nationally, ports elsewhere in the country say they may be able to step into the breach.
In Florida, Governor Ronald DeSantis has announced that the Ports of Jacksonville and Miami, among other locations, can handle an increase in new tonnage.
If the problem is one of ships “sitting off the coast somewhere else and they can be rerouted here and we can get those shelves stocked, then we want to be part of that solution,” DeSantis remarked during a visit to the Jacksonville port.
Officials with the Port of New Orleans are reaching out to both importers and ocean carriers in a move to secure business that might otherwise go to the clogged New York, Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, while adding port tours for new customers interested in the port’s operations on the Mississippi River.
The Port of Virginia, with facilities in Newport News, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, has notably increased its imports, with Norfolk seeing a 26% increase in business. “There is no congestion here,” Stephen Edwards, chief executive officer with the Virginia Port, told the publication Freight Waves.
Meanwhile, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have announced a joint policy to fine shipping companies whose cargo containers wait too long at the port’s facilities.
“The terminals are running out of space, and this will make room for the containers sitting on those ships at anchor,” Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said in a statement.
Ocean carriers will be charged $100 per container per day at Los Angeles and Long Beach in a move to break the logjam of ships at both ports.
By Garry Boulard
The planned construction of a new dental school in El Paso has taken a significant step forward with a vote by the Texas State Legislature appropriating funds for the project.
Lawmakers have given the green light to spending $59.9 million for the construction of a dental school that will belong to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso.
The funding is coming through tuition revenues bonds, which are issued by institutions of higher learning in Texas and annually supported via tuition revenue at those schools.
The legislation, SB 52, was signed into law by Texas Governor George Abbott on October 25.
The new dental at Texas Tech will house both a learning center as well as a clinic and will also offer both primary and pediatric care.
In a statement, Richard Lange, president of Texas Tech at El Paso, noted the ongoing need for advanced dental care that will be provided by the center, remarking that “many people with dental issues also have health issues.”
Being able to treat all such issues in a single location, continued Lange, “makes it convenient for the patients, but more importantly, it coordinates care.”
The new center will be a part of the university’s Wood L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine, which was opened last year.
That school is the first and only one of its kind on the U.S./Mexico border.
Altogether, Texas Tech this month received just over $72 million in state funding for a variety of facilities construction and upgrade projects at its main Lubbock campus, as well as its locations in the cities of Junction and Midland.
By Garry Boulard
Funding has now been secured for a feasibility study that could lead to the creation of a long-awaited rail system in Colorado’s Front Range.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has announced that, with the additional backing of the Colorado Transportation Commission, some $3.9 million is tagged to pay for that study.
As proposed, the rail line would run for just under 175 miles linking Fort Collins to the north with Pueblo in the south.
The system would additionally include stops at Denver and Colorado, as well as several other cities.
State officials have touted the new transit line because, running through the eastern half of the Centennial State, it would also be serving the fastest-growing section of Colorado, an area expected to see a 34% increase in its population by 2040.
The system, which would probably be operated by the railroad passenger service Amtrak in a partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation, could cost as much as $2.8 billion to build.
The idea behind the officially named Corridor Development Study will be to provide a projection of the likely number of riders the transit line would serve, while also trying to pinpoint sources of funding for it.
An exact timeline for when the study will begin has not been announced, but sources expect the effort to be underway by the end of this year.
By Garry Boulard
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