For the first time in nine years, a commercial construction project tops ENR California's annual ranking of the largest construction starts in the state last year. The 175-acre Cupertino site for the $5-billion Apple Campus 2 buzzes with the activity of five major general contractors and thousands of workers as they construct 2.8 million sq ft of office space, 600,000 sq ft of research space and myriad supporting spaces.

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Construction firms in the Bay Area should expect more of the same in the coming years. Google and other technology companies have revealed grand plans for office megaprojects in Mountain View and nearby locales.

And in Southern California, work proceeds rapidly on the $1-billion Metropolis mixed-use development in downtown Los Angeles, which includes a 19-story hotel and three residential towers between 38 and 54 stories. "California commercial real estate is booming once again," says John M. Tipton, a partner with Allen Matkins.

The law firm partnered with the UCLA Anderson Forecast on a survey showing that during the second half of last year, the average value of newly issued permits for nonresidential construction—adjusted for inflation—was at its highest level since 2001.

But it's not just privately funded projects that are on the upswing. Metro in Los Angeles has two transit projects in the top five starts, together worth nearly $3.5 billion. A pair of terminal upgrades at Los Angeles International Airport totals nearly $1 billion, and more work lies ahead for the facility. A joint venture of Turner and PCL will build the $961-million Midfield Satellite Concourse North project. Preconstruction and design for the 800,000-sq-ft project has begun, with construction anticipated to begin late next year.

Health care construction remains strong, with three projects landing among the top 10 project starts: two San Francisco hospitals for Sutter Health totaling more than $2.5 billion and the $900-million Kaiser Permanente San Diego Central Hospital.

Also in San Diego, crews began erecting approximately 12,500 tons of structural steel for the 22-story San Diego Central Courthouse. The steel requires around 101,000 shop-hours to be produced, says Matt Kidd, project engineer with general contractor Rudolph & Sletten Inc.

Steel erection also began last month for the $300-million Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Center. Supplier Schuff Steel and subcontractor Pacific Erectors will install some 9,000 tons of structural steel, including columns up to 40 ft tall, according to a Sacramento Kings spokeswoman.

For the first time in years, no major highway or bridge project exceeded the $130-million minimum needed to be ranked. Only one energy project—the 300-MW Stateline Solar Farm—made the list.