While the COVID-19 pandemic’s full impact on the MidAtlantic construction market remains unknown, there’s no doubt it will hit most of the region’s construction sectors hard. But ENR MidAtlantic’s annual Top Starts ranking is evidence that the region’s construction activity had already started to slow before the crisis emerged. The nearly $9 billion in total project volume that makes up ENR MidAtlantic’s 2019 Top Starts list is down from $13.5 billion in 2018. The total for 2019—which includes 25 projects that started substantial construction in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—reflects an even sharper decline from the $21.2 billion in projects on ENR MidAtlantic’s list for 2017.
The ranking is compiled using information from Dodge Data & Analytics, plus details provided by firms and other sources. The minimum value of projects for 2019 was $200 million, compared with $185 million in 2018 and a $150-million minimum in 2017.
Jay Stoda, Richmond business unit leader at DPR Construction, says the firm had a “strong backlog” before the crisis “in part because the industry had been steadying for a slowdown for several years.”
The four hospital projects on this year’s list were well underway before the pandemic began. The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU is tied at No. 15. DPR is the contractor for the $280-million project that Stoda says is on schedule despite social distancing. “The focus is on enhanced safety protocols and listening to customer needs,” he says.
The other three hospital projects include the $400-million UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Tower at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh, tied at No. 6, and the Virginia Hospital Center Outpatient Pavilion and Garage in Arlington, Va. The $250-million project is tied for 20th on the list.
The final hospital project, Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center, is tied at 24th and valued at $200 million.
Clark Nexsen is the design firm for River Tower at Harbor’s Edge in Norfolk, Va., which is tied at No. 24 on this year’s list. At press time, the project was on track for an August 2021 delivery. Terri Hall, Clark Nexsen’s president, says the firm’s projects are moving forward “with rigorous social distancing measures being implemented for health protection and safety.”
Hall added, “Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic is focused on our community—keeping people safe and healthy, and quickly addressing the need for more health care capacity.”
Hall said the firm is able to collaborate internally and externally with clients using platforms such as Microsoft Teams. “We are using the virtual meetings to facilitate teamwork and communication, and our professionals are using remote desktop access to produce documents,” Hall says.
Several other large projects were under construction at press time. DPR is building the top-ranked project on this year’s list, the $1-billion second phase of Facebook’s eastern Henrico County data center. It will total more than 2 million sq ft when completed late this year. It includes three 450,000-sq-ft buildings.
The second-largest project on the list is the $975-million Naval Facilities Engineering Command’s Global Contingency Construction project in Norfolk. The No. 3 project is the LIVE! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia. The $700-million project, which Gilbane Building Co. is constructing, received a waiver from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) March 19 construction ban—an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19—because the project was viewed as important to economic development. One of the largest construction projects in Keystone State history, the 1.5-million-sq-ft facility includes a sports betting venue, a 12-story hotel with more than 200 rooms, entertainment spaces and a parking facility.
Shawn Carlin, Gilbane’s Philadelphia business unit leader, says, “We have worked extremely hard to create guidelines and specific jobsite safety analysis in order to keep our projects open—all the while protecting the men and women on those sites as that is our first priority.”
DPR’s Stoda says COVID-19 has thrust contractors and owners into “uncharted territory.” He adds, “We’re focused on how we can work together with customers, project partners, the trades and the community to move projects forward safely and address emerging customer needs.”