With a slight shift from residential to industrial and higher education sectors in 2016, New England’s construction market will continue to look up in 2017, especially in Boston.
Overall, the city’s construction boom, which began in 2011, continues. Currently, approximately $7.87 billion worth of construction is underway, according to the Boston Planning & Redevelopment Agency.
But a Boston Foundation report, released in late November, estimates that, ultimately, 2016 will see an 18% decrease in housing permits. “With permits having steadily increased since 2009,” the foundation reports, “it’s unclear if this decline represents a temporary blip or if developers are slowing down production as the luxury market has become saturated.”
Nevertheless, luxury residential towers continue to rise in Boston. The largest project completed in Massachusetts in 2016 was the $450-million Millennium Tower. The 60-story, 685-ft-tall ultra-luxury condo building was constructed on the former Filene’s Basement site, which was demolished in 2008 but remained an eyesore throughout the recession.
Construction on the city’s tallest residential tower, the 740-ft Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences at One Dalton Street, will be complete by 2018. Construction also is scheduled to begin in 2017 on a 677-ft-tall building above South Station that will include 175 condos.
The Four Seasons will be the third-tallest building in Boston, while the South Station tower will be the sixth-tallest tower behind Millennium Tower. City officials also struck a deal in 2016 with developer Millennium Partners to build Boston’s second-tallest building, a 750-ft-high, 55-story condo tower at the site of the city-owned Winthrop Square Garage.
But the shift to the institutional and higher-education sectors already has begun, including a slew of new biopharmaceutical projects. Gilbane Building Co. recently broke ground on a 200,000-sq-ft manufacturing plant in Norton, Mass., for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals that will house approximately 150 new full-time employees. Gilbane and its partner Janey Construction Management also are building Boston's first new public school in more than a decade—a $70-million science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school to be completed by 2018.
ENR New England’s first-ever Contractor of the Year, Shawmut Design and Construction, is building the $88-million engineering building at Brown University in Providence, R.I.—one of the first education projects in the region to use an integrated project delivery contract. MIT is building its own nano-technology facility, slated to open in 2018. Turner Construction Co. is the contractor.
In the health-care sector, Suffolk Construction Co. recently completed the $350-million Building for Transformative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It is designed to help physicians and researchers from different disciplines collaborate on new treatments and therapies within the same facility.
New England also had a big year in renewable energy in 2016. Massachusetts passed a law that sets new clean-energy targets, including the largest state commitment to offshore wind power in the U.S. Further, the U.S. Dept. of Energy awarded a $5.3-million grant to the Maine Tidal Energy project to proceed with development.
The South Boston Waterfront will continue to be a building hotbed in 2017. Eight projects are currently under construction, with another 15 approved. General Electric Co. is getting underway with a $200-million headquarters, down the street from the Seaport District on the Fort Point Channel.
Casino-based entertainment also is spurring new work, including the $2.1-billion Wynn Boston Harbor casino and hotel in Everett, Mass. It finally got underway last August, after the company settled several legal battles that halted construction for months. The $950-million MGM Grand Springfield also is progressing toward an expected September 2018 finish by Tishman Construction, a unit of AECOM.