The economic recession and tight financial markets have considerably slowed construction activity in Florida’s Tampa Bay region, but government entities continue to invest in roads, ports, airports and other projects.

Photo: courtesy the Beck Group
The Beck Group of Tampa is building its new LEED-silver certified regional headquarters in Tampa.

“The private market is basically nonexistent,” says Tom Fronce, senior vice president of marketing for Creative Contractors in Clearwater. “The private market is having difficulty getting funding. We don’t see anything happening at least in the next six months.”

The Research and Analytics unit of McGraw-Hill Construction reported in April that nonresidential construction in the Tampa area was up 2% from April 2008. However, year-to-date nonresidential construction activity was off 25%.

City, county and state projects are moving forward, some with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars.

“Smart government is trying to do stimulus, and they figured out it’s a good time to build,” Fronce says.

Page McKee, senior vice president and general manager of the Tampa office of Hardin Construction Co., also reports an uptick in the number of municipal projects such as law-enforcement facilities, fire stations, court buildings and transportation.

“Government-funded (projects) that don’t need financing and stimulus projects are becoming active,” McKee adds.

The Arts Skanska of Tampa is midway through a $52-million project constructing a new 66,000-sq-ft Tampa Museum of Art, a central energy plant and the adjacent Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, as well as renovating Kiley Garden and the Hillsborough River Seawall. The city provided $18.5 million toward the total $33-million cost of the museum, which is set to wrap up in 2010.

On the private side, J.O. DeLotto and Sons of Tampa broke ground in December on the $12-million, 53,000-sq-ft Glazer Children’s Museum, also located in the city’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. It has 14 themed areas and 175 exhibits and will open this spring.

The Beck Group of Tampa broke ground in December on the $35-million, 66,450-sq-ft Salvatore Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Construction should wrap up in fall 2010.

Education Frank Cardinal, senior vice president and account manager with Skanska USA Building in Tampa, says school districts have switched capital funding from new construction to renovations of existing facilities. Skanska is working on five renovations, each in the $3-million to $4-million range, for Pinellas County Schools (where St. Petersburg is located).

Creative Contractors is finishing a $14-million elementary school for Pasco County Schools and is in preconstruction on a $20-million high school renovation project for Manatee County Schools.

DeLotto expects to complete a two-story, $2.6-million classroom building in August at Tomlin Middle School in Plant City for Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Skanska is working on a $36-million, 103,536-sq-ft Visual and Performing Arts Center...