Miami Report: Public Projects are Metro's Saving Grace
Baseball, transportation and education have become the top construction markets in Miami, an area where residential condominium work has hit a wall and public work has taken precedence.
“The market is generally slow, and ‘slow’ is an understatement,” says Tom Murphy Jr., chairman and CEO of Coastal Construction Co. in Miami. “South Florida was dead for a year. But since September, we have lined up six new projects.”
However, unlike the large jobs of the boom years that often ranged from $50 million to more than $150 million each, now the average costs range from $10 million to $50 million, contractors say. Coastal is building a $32-million affordable-housing project for Camillus House, as well as a few private homes—costing between $12 million and $50 million each—for owners with the means to take advantage of lower pricing.
“That always happens in the slow time,” Murphy says. “They can build 30% cheaper than they could this time last year and 40% less than two years ago. I doubt we will see construction much cheaper than now.”
Coastal continues working on the $140-million, 35-story, downtown office tower 1450 Brickell, expected to finish early this year, and the $480-million St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort in Bal Harbour, scheduled for completion in late 2012.
Murphy says the company has enough work on the books to remain profitable for the next couple of years.
Jay Fraser, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction Co.’s Miami office, says that once his firm recognized that the volume of high-rise residential work taking place five years ago was unmanageable and unsustainable, it focused on other markets—higher education, health care and special projects.
“The need for higher education continues, especially with the challenge of unemployment,” Fraser says.
Turner began construction in the summer on a $32-million Florida International University public safety center and parking garage in Miami and at the end of 2009 on a $15-million, 45,000-sq-ft hospitality management building for Miami Dade College in downtown Miami. Both are scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of this year.
“It’s pretty bleak,” says Len Mills, executive vice president of the South Florida chapter of Associated General Contractors in Sunrise. “There’s just not much going on, and what there is is fairly small, other than the Marlins stadium.”
Hunt/Moss, A Joint Venture, in association with MARS Contractors of Miami, began construction on the $425-million Florida Marlins Stadium for Miami-Dade County last summer. Hunt/Moss is a partnership between Hunt Construction Group of Indianapolis and Moss & Associates of Fort Lauderdale.
“The market will allow us to bring it in under budget,” says Scott Moss, senior vice president of Moss.
The ballpark, on the former Orange Bowl site, will seat 37,000 people and feature a retractable roof and air conditioning. It is scheduled to open in April 2012.
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