Southwest Top Starts Surge Thanks to Gigafactory
The combined value of the 25 largest projects to break ground in the Southwest in 2014 has again topped the prior year. However, this time the yearly total exceeds the previous year by more than $1 billion.
Buoyed by Tesla's lithium battery "gigafactory" in Sparks, Nev., at $2.25 billion, the ENR Southwest 2014 Top Starts list exceeds $5 billion. A parallel between 2013 and 2014 is that Nevada is driving the Southwest market, especially with high-dollar, high-profile projects. In addition to the Tesla plant, there are three other Nevada projects that make up the four largest starts in the Southwest for 2014: the Moapa Solar Plant, First Solar Silver State South and the MGM/AEG arena.
The MGM/AEG arena, on a 16-acre site in Las Vegas between New York-New York and the Monte Carlo, has been designed to meet LEED Gold certification. The 20,000-seat multipurpose event center is being privately funded by AEG and MGM Resorts and is the first non-collegiate structure of its type in Sin City.
Arizona's top start in 2014 was the Tohono O'odham West Valley Resort and Casino in Glendale, at $250 million. The facility is finally going vertical after several years of sparring by rival tribes and political figures over whether the Tohono O'odham tribe could build a casino on purchased land.
"It is great to see dozens of companies and more than 1,300 construction workers coming together to get this fantastic new attraction up and running," says Andy Asselin, CEO of Tohono O'odham Gaming Enterprise.
In New Mexico, the top start was the Rio Hub, a frac material yard under development outside of Loving. The top vertical building start in the state was an expansion at Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho, N.M., a $68-million, six-story tower that includes a cancer center.
"The accelerated 18-month construction schedule of Rust Medical Center's new patient tower is in response to the growing health care needs of our community," says Lucas Ford, project director with McCarthy Building Cos. "To deal with the challenge of an accelerated schedule, our construction team is using the lean construction method of pull planning, which provides for highly collaborative scheduling by McCarthy's team and each of our subcontractors on site in order to deliver on the project's aggressive time line."
Residential projects are nearly absent from this year's Top Starts list. One notable exception is a $51-million complex dubbed the Elysian at the District Apartments in Henderson, Nev.
The Nevada Assembly recently passed a construction-defect reform bill that was touted as a solution to the moribund residential sector, but according to Neil Opfer, assistant professor in the department of civil engineering and construction at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the bill is not a surefire solution.
"There is still a huge inventory out there," Opfer says. "It is really tough for builders to compete at those price points. But it will be interesting to see what happens in the rest of 2015."