Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Zoning Board approved the construction of Ridge Flats at 4300 Ridge Avenue in East Falls—a project proposed by developer and design-builder Onion Flats.

The Project

The five story building will provide 146 residential units and 9,300 square feet of retail space.  More importantly, Ridge Flats will be Philadelphia’s first – and the country’s largest – certified “passive house.”  A passive house produces a “net-zero” energy impact by producing as much energy as it uses for heating, cooling, lighting and hot water (which, at Ridge Flats, will be generated on-site).  The “net-zero” impact is accomplished by solar paneling on the roof and the construction of a highly insulated, air-tight building envelope so that the indoor spaces are easier to keep cool or warm.  The power generated by the building will be sold to a utility company, and the savings will be passed to the residents.

The Vision

Howard Steinberg, AIA, LEED AP, a principal of Onion Flats, explained the purpose and importance of Ridge Flats:

Ridge Flats strives to be the largest Passive House certified and net zero energy possible project in the country.  Our mission at Onion Flats is to continue to prove that well designed, high performance building development is a viable alternative that provides healthy and sustainable environments for our residents.  Equally important for us is to create projects that inspire the City’s politicians and development community with the hope that similar developments eventually become the rule rather than the exception, as envisioned in the Greenworks Philadelphia plan.

The building will also include many other energy saving elements such as a public art installation that incorporates and addresses the residents’ energy usage.  The building will also feature a garden landscape on the second floor to create “new ground.”  Proper storm water management will be achieved through a 100% pervious site, and much of the construction will be built through the use of sustainable and locally sourced materials.

In addition to the various “green” elements of the building, it also seeks to compliment and improve the East Falls community.  For example, the building design will encourage community among residents as it features viewing platforms and outdoor access to the residential units instead of interior hallways.  Ridge Flats will act as a buffer between the heavily traveled Kelly Drive and the pedestrian and bike friendly trails of Fairmount Park.

Recently, the Zoning Board approved several variances sought by Onion Flats, including less parking.  Under the current zoning laws, the project would have required 695 parking spaces due to the retail space planned.  Since the retail space will be geared towards pedestrians and the local community, all involved agreed that this much parking was not needed.  Additionally, all residents will have indoor bicycle storage and parking spaces for a car share program will be provided on premises.

Looking Ahead

Construction will begin in late 2013 or early 2014 and is anticipated to last about 12-14 months.  Ridge Flats is an ambitious and exciting project for Onion Flats and the City, and everyone is pulling for it.

Lane F. Kelman is a Partner with the Firm and a member of the Construction Group. He represents developers, general contractors, construction managers and the different trades in complex matters ranging from bid protests, contract negotiations and claim prevention & management.

Jennifer R. Budd is an Associate with the Firm and a member of the Construction Group.

By: Lane Kelman and Lori Wisniewski Azzara

In its first-ever survey of green goods and service jobs, the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that “green” jobs accounted for 2.4% of the nation’s total employment in 2010. According to the report, the U.S. had 3.1 million green jobs in 2010, with 2.3 million being in the private sector and 860,300 in the public sector.

Due to the lack of an agreed upon definition of what constitutes a “green” job, past measurement of employment in this field was difficult. In this most recent report, however, the BLS developed a two-part definition of green jobs. The first component counts “output-based” jobs that produce goods and services benefiting the environment or conserving natural resources. Such jobs include the manufacture of hybrid vehicles, the production of solar power and construction projects such as weatherization. The second part of the definition covers “process-based” jobs where workers make a company more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources. Such jobs include grocery stores or restaurants that primarily sell organic food or a recycling plant, even if the plant itself is not green.

The BLS’s report includes only jobs under the first part of the definition; a second report that will include process-based green jobs will be released later this year. It is anticipated that the percentage of green jobs will increase even more after both parts of the definition are considered.

In the private sector, manufacturing accounted for the greatest number of green jobs with 461,847, which is 4% of all manufacturing employment. Construction was second, with about 372,077 green jobs, which accounts for 6.8% of construction employment.

On a state level, Vermont had the highest proportion of green employment at 4.4%, while Florida had the lowest at 1.3%. California had the largest number of green jobs, with 338,445 workers. Pennsylvania was fourth with 182,193 green jobs, which represents 3.3% of the state’s total employment. Maryland had 87,408 green jobs, and New Jersey reported 76,025.

**Chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Chart.jpg

Lane Kelman is a Partner at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC. He represents developers, general contractors, construction managers and the different trades in complex matters ranging from bid protests, contract negotiations and claim prevention & management.

Lori Wisniewski Azzara is an Associate at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC. Ms. Azzara practices in the areas of construction and commercial litigation and has experience in contract negotiation, claims for delay and inefficiency, mechanics’ liens, and all types of contractual disputes.

By: Jennifer M. Horn On September 14th, Lancaster General Health (LGH) is set to break ground on the new Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Center. LGH.jpg According to the press release from the LGH, the 70,000 square foot, $44 million center will, “bring medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons and other cancer specialists together in one location…The Suzanne H. Arnold Center for Breast Health will be integrated into the two-story cancer center.” Stand out features of the new cancer center include:

  • A new radiation wing, considered the “hub of technology,” with the latest diagnostic and treatment technologies available;
  • Infusion therapy/chemotherapy suites configured with patient comfort in mind;
  • A conference and education center with the most advanced technology and connectivity; and
  • A tranquil Healing Garden with a natural landscape where patients, families and friends can find a quiet space between treatments.

Philadelphia based architecture firm Ballinger designed the center and Benchmark Construction Co. Inc. is set to manage the project. Jennifer M. Horn is Senior Counsel at Cohen Seglias and a member of the Construction Group. She concentrates her practice in the areas of construction litigation and real estate.

Pennsylvania:

PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) is moving its headquarters to Pittsburgh. PNC, which is the largest bank in Pennsylvania, plans to build a $400 million “green” office structure in downtown Pittsburgh, which will create 2,500 construction jobs. The new skyscraper, which is to be about 40 Stipmall.jpgstories high and 800,000 square-feet, will be PNC’s largest building in Pittsburgh. Currently plans include 300 underground parking spaces and street level retail. The building will be complete with green rooftops.

Maryland:

Maryland’s National Harbor is adding a “$100 million retail outlet as part of a plan by its developers to expand the convention and resort complex into a one-stop shop for visitors.” The outlets, to be built on 40 acres of land, are expected to house 80 designer stores.

The National Harbor is quickly on the way to becoming a must-see attraction. The National Children’s museum has announced plans to relocate to the harbor . Plans to break ground on a new 140,000 square-foot building to house the museum are expected to start later this year.

New Jersey:

New Jersey’s Xanadu Mall is about to get a $1.5 billion face lift. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced plans to renovate and expand the mall, including a “recladding of its multicolor exterior.” Refurbishing the mall, a 2.4 million square-foot structure, will create over 9,000 construction jobs. Christie who had previously dubbed the mall the states “ugliest” building, has also announced a name change to the structure. Going forward the new mall will be known as “American Dream Meadowlands.”

 

Is construction picking up throughout the Mid-Atlantic region? Here are just a few summaries of headlines for Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania

Maryland:

As of March 2011, construction projects in several Maryland counties continue to increase, and Mid-Atlantic.jpgconstruction contracts “were up 55% when compared to the same month in 2010.” For the first quarter, future construction contracts reached $272M.

These statistics include Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne’s,counties in Maryland . The commercial projects included, but were not limited to, the construction of commercial, manufacturing, educational, religious, administrative, recreational, hotel, and dormitory buildings.

Delaware:

Delaware Governor Jack Markell spoke to Delaware business leaders on May 4, 2011 proposing how to spend the projected surplus above the $3.4 billion operating budget he proposed in January.

Ideally, Markell wants to spend $135 million of a projected $320 million budget surplus “on one-time construction projects to stimulate the economy” through a new initiative, the Building Delaware’s Future Now fund.

Some of the projects Markell suggests committing funds to include:

  • $40 million for a new jobs infrastructure fund to pay for road and sewer improvements for getting new companies to relocate to Delaware;
  • $40 million for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund;
  • $35 million for the preservation of historic buildings, the capital complex in Dover and state parks facilities;
  • $10 million for investing in affordable housing projects; and
  • $10 million for open space preservation.

Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania has been awarded $40M, from the US Department of Transportation, for additional rail lines, leading from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. The funds come as part of the $2.4B that Florida Governor Rick Scott declined. Erin Waters, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) said the “upgrade would shave another 7 to 9 minutes from the travel time between Harrisburg and Philadelphia,” by improving the switch and signal network in Harrisburg.

No timeline has currently been released for this project.

Also in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Financing Authority approved $172M to fund 160 water infrastructure projects, in 51 counties, through the H2O PA program.

The H2O PA program provides “grants for flood control projects, construction of drinking water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer projects and high hazard or unsafe dam projects.”

For a complete list of projects and their descriptions please visit www.newpa.com.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that 10 schools in the state will receive a total of $584 million through the Schools Development Authority (SDA) to rebuild and renovate existing space. In addition to the allocated money, $100 million has been designated for emergency school improvements.
school.jpgSchool districts that will receive funding include: Bridgeton, Elizabeth, Long Branch, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson and West New York. Construction is expected to begin this year for a new magnet high school in the Elizabeth School District and an elementary school in the New Brunswick School District.

Christie announced that all construction will follow a standardized design process (creating one design for all new construction projects), thus greatly reducing costs for architects and project engineers. This process is estimated to save about $4 million per project. By starting with only two projects, Christie believes the state will find more ways to save through the initial process.

Richard Kaplan, superintendent of the New Brunswick School District is thrilled with the news. According to Kaplan, the district had the “only school in the state that they (state officials) tore down and didn’t rebuild.” He continued to say that since 2006, the children had been attending classes in a warehouse with no playground. The new school building will hold 675 students, grades 1-5, and will be built on a vacant lot where the former building once stood.

Emergency Construction

Just after Christie’s emergency construction announcement, a project for a new roof at the Dr. William H. Horton Elementary School was green lighted. The school, which houses students from kindergarten to eighth grade, received $732,000 for repairs.

The SDA determines emergency repairs based on health and safety concerns.

Districts That Did Not Receive Funding Are Looking for Answers

The SDA is comprised of 31 school districts, and those districts not included in Christie’s list want answers as to why.

Originally, under former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, 51 projects were approved. Christie established new criteria to identify the need for construction which included: total cost, cost per pupil and the efficiency of the project. In the future, the entire list of eligible projects will be reviewed each year, and funding will be evaluated. There will be no set number of projects to complete each year – it will be strictly need based.

Mark Miller, superintendent of the Warren County School District, which did not make this years list, says, “Half the students take classes in 31 trailers scattered behind the current school’s structure…there is no question in my mind…that these students deserve new schools, I have no idea why we were not on this list.”

Update: Christie Signs NJ Power Plant Bill

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law last Friday the controversial power plant bill (S-2381) that, among other things, is aimed to lower energy rates by increasing the energy generated in-state and create construction jobs.

The new law enables LS Power Systems to build a power plant in West Deptford, NJ, and provides an incentive for companies such as Competitive Power Ventures to build at least three additional plants in the state, with long-term, ratepayer subsidized energy contracts. Proponents of the bill believe that the long term capacity agreements (LCAPP) will reduce the cost of energy for ratepayers, thereby reducing the state’s reliance on out-of-sate generation and will create jobs in the construction and energy industries.

Opposition to the bill remains strong. Critics say that it locks ratepayers into 15 years of subsidies for some power suppliers and that the new bill does not guarantee lower tax rates for the public.

We will continue to monitor the controversial law, and report on its effectiveness.

$261 million tax reimbursement for Revel casino

Governor Chris Christie announced on February 1 that the half finished Revel Casino project can resume construction, beginning as early as next week. Through the Economic Development Authority, and the Atlantic City Rescue Package, Christie has authorized the state to provide $261 million to the casino. With this agreement, Revel will share 20 percent of its profits (up to $261 million) with the state and the state will hold a minority ownership in the casino. Revel lined up an additional $1.5 billion in private financing needed to complete the project. Christie’s administration cited the prospect of thousands of jobs and billions in future tax revenue as an incentive to back the project.

The project is on schedule to be completed in June 2012 and will create about 2,000 construction jobs. When fully operational, Revel will employ 5,500 people. Additionally, the casino plans to build 1,100 hotel rooms, as opposed to the 1,800 rooms originally planned.

Christie commented on the renewed project by saying that, “This is a landmark day for Atlantic City, and the beginning of its transformation”.

A controversial bill, know as “LS Power Bill” has recently put New Jersey Governor Chris Christie under some pressure. The bill, A. 3442, is a reaction to regional power-grid operator PJM Interconnection’s (PJM) reliability pricing model (RPM) thaelectric power plant.jpgt is designed, among other things, to encourage the construction of electric generation through incentive rates. The bill says the state must take action to ensure that enough electric generation is available in the region because the incentives under the PJM’s model have failed.

The goal of A. 3442 is to establish a long-term capacity agreement pilot program to promote construction of qualified in-State electric generation facilities.

Bill Supporters

The legislation would allow for a guaranteed long-term income for developers of several large power plants, and the bill’s supporters claim that it would significantly lower energy rates for residents.

“The guarantees were necessary to obtain financing to construct the 640-megawatt plant along the Delaware River, which would cost from $800 million to $1 billion,” said Tom Hoatson, director of regulatory affairs for LS Power.

If approved, the new plant would create construction jobs for 500 people, and 25 permanent jobs.

Bill Opponents

Opponents of the bill, which include Exelon Corp., say it is an “anticompetitive sweetheart deal that will cost consumers in the long run.”

Challengers claim a move like this would “set the clock back” years, and undo efforts to make electrical-power markets more competitive.

George M. Waidelich, vice president of energy operations for Safeway Inc., says, “we cannot afford an energy surcharge to guarantee billions of dollars of revenue to a few select developers.”

Next Steps

Currently, the bill is under review with Governor Christie. Officials expect that the Governor will likely sign the legislation after his office has secured amendments that address concerns about the bill’s potential negative impact on competition in the electric generation market. The Governor’s office was consulted in the last draft of amendments.

On September 6, 2010, President Barack Obama proposed a six-year, $50 billion plan to rebuild the nation’s highways, railways and airport runways. Obama’s plan includes rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, construction and maintenance of 4,000 miles of railway – enough tracks to span the continent — and rehabilitation or reconstruction of 150 milesTraffic.jpg of airport runways. He also called for an “infrastructure bank” that would focus on paying for national and regional transportation projects.

It seems that Pennsylvania and New Jersey are heeding Obama’s call by making transportation a priority in the Keystone and Garden States.

New 5-Year Plan for New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced this past Thursday a 5-year, $8 billion plan to renew the State’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and provide funding for New Jersey road and bridge projects. The annual $1.6 billion program will provide approximately $200 million for local government projects, $672 million for New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) projects and $728 for New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJ DOT) projects. The plan significantly increases cash contributions to the program, as compared to prior years, and relies less on borrowing bonds. Christie’s proposal will change the type of debt New Jersey will use to fund future transportation projects, and will include no toll or tax increases. In addition to the $1.6 billion program for local government projects, NJ Transit and NJDOT, the plan includes approximately $363 million average per year for projects that will be funded by the New York/New Jersey Port Authority in conjunction with NJDOT.

State projects slated to be funded through the Port Authority monies include a plan to renovate the Pulaski Skyway, the Route 7 Whitpenn Bridge and a new roadway in the Portway District of New Jersey.

Christie said that, “this is a significant commitment from the Port Authority to make our roadways and bridges safer as we travel through the port district.”

Want to Learn More about the TTF Plan?

NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson will review Gov. Christie’s TTF renewal plan at the Utility & Transportation Contractors Association’s (UTCA) upcoming membership meeting. The meeting is scheduled for January 13, 2011 at the Crowne Plaza in Jamesburg, New Jersey. Please contact the UTCA office at (732) 292-4300 for more information.

Smart Transportation Projects in Pennsylvania

The winners of the second round of the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative have been announced, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. Forty-one communities across the state will get a portion of a $24.7 million fund to help boost “Smart Transportation” projects.

“Smart Transportation means partnering to build great communities for future generations of Pennsylvanians by linking transpiration investments and land-use planning and decision making,” said Biehler.

Smart Transportation projects are initiatives that support local economic development; encourage walkable, multimodal mixed-use development; improve regional connectivity or enhance the existing transportation network.

Continue Reading Transportation Becoming a Priority in PA and NJ

The luxury hotel chain, the Four Seasons, has been building an 18-story, 256-room hotel in Harbor East, Baltimore for over a year now. Until now, thhotel.jpgey have not been able to fully finance the $197 million project. On Thursday, January 6, 2011, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is expected to sign off on a deal to provide the hotel with partial financing from the proceeds of $45 million in tax-exempt bonds (in the form of “recovery zone facility revenue” bonds) issued by the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority. This money was made available through President Obama’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The hotel is expected to create $221 million in economic activity, 1,273 construction jobs and 577 permanent hotel jobs.

Timothy P. Doyle, a program manager with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said “the authority decided to back the package based on its economic impact and job creation projections.”

With this assistance, the hotel is scheduled to open in late 2011. Upon completion of the project, the plan is to then build condominiums above the hotel, bringing the building to 44 stories. This would make the Four Seasons building the tallest in the city. The bond money will be used solely for the creation of the hotel, and related retail space, not the condominiums.