Where Architecture Meets Online Dating

Following in the well-trod path of and other online dating services, the American Institute of Architects thinks it has found a way to attract investors to the thousands of industry projects put on hold—send the potential suitors online for a database of the good-lookers. The AIA is compiling a list of stalled projects nationwide that “make sense” to move forward but lack financing.

“It's the for projects,” says Clark Manus, AIA president.

Clark believes AIA's initiative will help to shed light on the worthiness of restarting some of the projects that investors have overlooked. As proof, he cites the association's announced plans in June to develop the database.

“That resulted in a number of inquiries from potential investors,” he says. “There are pockets of [investors] out there that are specifically looking for projects,” and the database will make it easier for them to find what they are looking for.

Any industry professional is welcome to add a project to the list. “Right now [they] can send us information on stalled projects, and we'll enter it,” says Paul Mendelsohn, AIA vice president of government and community relations. But eventually the site will become more of a self-service tool that will allow users to upload their own information.

“Database is kind of an erroneous term,” Mendelsohn says. “It will launch as a Web-based site that has the ability to capture information from the project side and the financing side, and will be searchable.” It will feature drop-down menus with fields of data such as project size and location, he adds.

“We won't rank projects,” Manus says. “We are supplying a mechanism for which a decision can be made ... to connect two potential business partners.”

AIA plans to launch the site as early as the end of October and modify it in stages after that. “The intent is for the initial launch to be usable,” Manus says, “but it will go through trial-and-error” upgrades with time.

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New york & New Jersey

AAA Sues Port Authority Over Toll Hikes

The American Automobile Association of New York and the AAA of New Jersey filed a federal lawsuit late last month against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's approved toll and fare hikes. The lawsuit follows a request made by AAA on Sept. 15 to investigate the authority's act as a violation of the Federal Bridge Act and is an attempt to stop the toll hikes from being collected on the authority's six bridges and tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey. In addition to the lawsuit, AAA has asked the authority to “turn over the capital plan that stands behind the need for toll increases.”

Many construction industry groups, including the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, have thrown their support behind the increases, which PANYNJ revised downward after strong opposition from the public. Without increases, thousands of jobs will be lost along with plans for capital spending, industry executives say.

AAA says the authority's toll rates go against a 1989 court decision that states that “the use of toll revenue must be functionally related to transportation,” says Marta Genovese, AAA New York's vice president and counsel. AAA also claims that the main reason for the toll hikes is to help subsidize projects such as the World Trade Center redevelopment.

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New York

Construction Costs in NYC On the Rise

Construction costs in new York City, which started to increase in 2010, are continuing to rise, according to a review of multiple surveys made by the New York Building Congress. This comes after a decline in 2009.

NYBC reviewed a series of surveys including Engineering News-Record's Building Cost Index, which shows that construction costs in New York City have risen 3.55% so far in 2011 and 2.42% in 2010, after falling 1.94% in 2009.

Separately, a survey by Rider Levett Bucknall of the New York metropolitan region finds that New York City construction costs have so far increased by 2.13% in 2011 and by 0.54% for all of 2010, after dropping 3.39% in 2009, NYBC says.

ENR uses the national price for structural steel, local prices for portland cement and lumber as well as local union wages, plus fringes, for carpenters, bricklayers and iron workers. RLB reviews similar data but also includes estimates of bid price changes, including overhead and profit.

NYBC says the “rate of increase in local construction costs for 2011 is roughly equivalent to the national average, which indicates that much of the cost increase here is attributable to rising material costs.”

Richard T. Anderson, NYBC president, says that after years of “relentless” cost escalation, New York City had “a bit of a respite” in 2009 and even in 2010 due to the economic downturn. “Unfortunately, the 2011 cost increases are starting to mirror the rate of cost escalation experienced during the middle of the previous decade when construction was soaring,” he says.

Moving forward, Anderson says, “it will be useful to examine the effect, if any, that the recently concluded construction labor negotiations have on overall construction costs. He expects it to take a long time for the agreements reached to filter into the data.

The surveys also showed that although New York City continues to be “one of the most expensive construction markets in the United States,” with office tower construction costing about $290 per sq ft, it is less expensive than its main international counterpart, London. Class A office space construction costs there are about $505 per sq ft.

New York

Skanska and JV Partners Win Transit Contracts

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has awarded Skanska USA and its joint venture partners awards on two of New York City's major transit extensions. The 70-30 JV of Skanska USA and Traylor Bros. Inc. has won the deal to excavate the cavern that will house the Second Avenue Subway's 86th Street Station. Separately, the 75-25 JV of Skanska and Railworks Corp. has signed a contract to furnish and install finishes and systems at the No. 7 Line subway extension from Times Square to West 25th Street and 11th Avenue in Manhattan.

Work is set to begin this month on the $301-million SAS project, with completion expected in the fall of 2014. The project includes the installation of concrete structural lining and involves extensive demolition work, support of excavation, utility work and the underpinning of existing buildings that are adjacent to the worksite, Skanska says.