In the past couple of months, there have been some positive signs that construction is making a comeback in Northern California. In a big way.

I’ve covered three major projects online and in the Daily Pacific Builder that, once they really start moving, which could be soon, can jumpstart construction activity, especially for contractors and subs, as well as green builders and consultants.

Just last month, ground was broken on a new $280 million, 200-acre community at the University of California, Davis. The planners for West Village, located just west of the Davis campus, are analyzing how to combine energy-saving measures with a sophisticated “smart grid” or network for generating, storing and distributing energy. The goal of the project is to create a great place to live and a “zero net energy” community with aggressive energy efficiency measures and on-site renewable resources to meet the community's annual energy demand.

The developers are the West Village Community Partnership, LLC, a joint venture between Carmel Partners of San Francisco and Urban Villages of Denver. Carmel Partners will serve as general contractor.

Phase I of West Village will include rental apartment student housing, for-sale faculty/staff housing, mixed use (45,000 sq ft of ground floor commercial/office/service space with rental apartments above), recreation fields, neighborhood parks and greenbelts, pre-school/day care facility, a community college (60,000 sq ft) and a satellite high school for Davis Joint Unified School District.

MVE Institutional of Oakland is the architect for the walk-up apartments, Studio E of San Diego designed the mixed-use aspect and Pasadena-based LCRA designed the single family homes. Cunningham Engineering of Davis is the civil engineer on the project and SWA Landscape has also been contracted.

Completion of the first phase is scheduled for fall 2011.

Further south in the Central Valley, in the hard-hit city of Stockton, A.G. Spanos Cos. unveiled plans for The Preserve, a new community that will be “a model for environmentally and economically sustainable development.”

The Preserve will generate a $2 billion investment, attract new businesses to Stockton, create 12,000 new jobs, add a new community hospital, reduce reliance on automobiles, and is projected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to typical developments, the firm said.

“These are tough times for Stockton, but my family has always had great faith in our city and its future,” says Michael Spanos, executive vice president of A. G. Spanos Cos. “Our new project comes at a time when our city needs help the most. The Preserve is unlike any other project in Stockton and I am very proud of the many innovations we propose to include.”

The Preserve is being planned as an eco-community by the San Francisco office of Gensler.

“We are thrilled to lead a team of scientists, experts, and planners on a project that will bring economic, environmental and social vitality to Stockton. The Preserve will introduce advanced sustainable practices and hopefully will serve as a model of responsible development for the rest of the country. For us this is a very exciting project,” says Michel St. Pierre, director of planning and urban design at Gensler.

And in Sacramento, Thomas Enterprises finally broke ground on The Railyards, its long-awaited mixed-use project. Teichert Construction was awarded the initial infrastructure phase of rehab grading Railyards Boulevard at The Railyards on the 5th Street, 6th Street, 7th Street Tunnel, and Railyards Boulevard Project. These projects will complement the Track Relocation Project, the historic shops abatement and rehabilitation, and the Jibboom/Bercut/Richards Boulevard work currently undergoing design.

Funded by a combination of federal, state, and local funds, these combined projects that currently employ hundreds will produce approximately 3,000 jobs over time, Thomas Enterprises says.  This construction work comes as Sacramento copes with an unemployment rate of 11.3% in a region that has lost 44,600 jobs in past year.


Other bid packages will be awarded beginning in the third quarter this year, continuing through the fourth quarter of 2011.Pre-qualified prime contractors for the project include C.C. Myers Inc., DeSilva Gates Construction Co., Ford Construction Co. Inc., Granite Construction Co. Kiewit Pacific Co., Lund Construction Co., McGuire and Hester, Sundt Construction Inc., Teichert Construction and Western Engineering Contractors Inc.

The Railyards project recently was awarded $20 million in federal stimulus funds to move train tracks a few hundred feet north, making room for a transit center. The city has until Dec. 1 to show they are shovel ready for this phase.