Top Building Jobs Approach $2B in Value

by George Waldon  on Monday, Apr. 14, 2008 12:00 am  

Bill Hannah, CEO of Nabholz Construction Corp., reports that construction demand remains strong, including at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock.

(To view a pdf of the list of the top commercial construction projects, click on Page 1, 2, 3, or, 4. A spreadsheet version is also available.)

Commercial construction in Arkansas held its own during the past 12 months, using a list of the largest projects as a measuring stick. The contract value of the largest commercial projects totaled nearly $2 billion, the same as in April 2007.

The 2008 list tallies 125 projects valued at $5 million or more from around the state, two more than appeared on last year's list.

Pulaski County alone was home to a third of the projects (42) on this year's roster, up from 38 in 2007. Benton and Washington counties combined for 33 high-dollar commercial projects for the second consecutive year.

Little Rock tallied 32 $5 million-plus projects - 32.5 if you count the $6.5 million project to convert the Junction Bridge to pedestrian traffic. The railway bridge spans the Arkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Little Rock also had the most big-buck commercial projects last year, with 30. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences campus contributed seven projects to the Little Rock scorecard. (See related article on Page 27.)

Two UAMS projects, a $149 million patient tower and the $81.5 million Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, top the 2008 list. Little Rock's CDI Contractors is overseeing both projects.

Other cities with six or more projects on the 2008 list are Fayetteville (11), Rogers (10) and North Little Rock (six). Bentonville, Hot Springs and Conway each had five projects on the list.

The largest Fayetteville project this year is the $30.5 million Mountain Ranch Apartments undertaken by S.C. Bodner Co. of Indianapolis. The biggest in North Little Rock is the $6.2 million expansion of Maverick Trucking by Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway.

The top eight cities accounted for 74 projects, 60 percent of the list.

Because the largest projects often take more than a year to complete, many entries on the list are repeats from earlier lists. Two projects new to the list joined the top 10: the $72.5 million Special Needs Unit at Malvern's Ouachita River Correctional Unit overseen by the Arkansas Department of Corrections and the $33 million Arvest Stadium in Springdale handled by Crossland Construction Co. of Columbus, Kan.

Nabholz Construction had 16 projects on this year's list, the most of any contractor. Its biggest is the $25 million Patient Tower Expansion at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison, a holdover from last year.

"We've been very fortunate," said Bill Hannah, CEO of Nabholz. "There's been a lot of volatility in the market, not so much in the work but in building material costs."

Hannah has wondered if the ever-rising cost of key building materials, egged on by higher transportation costs, will begin to have a negative impact on construction work.

"We haven't seen a tremendous change in the number of projects," he said. "You would think at some point it's going to have some effect on new starts, but it hasn't yet.

"We feel pretty good about the market through 2008. We think it will continue to hold strong into 2009."

The company's 16 projects on this year's list total $190.3 million, compared with more than $233 million in 2007.

Health care, institutional and K-12 sectors continue to generate a stream of projects. Even a sector that has been sluggish for Nabholz of late is showing signs of improvement.

"The industrial market is starting to make more of a comeback, new industry as well as expansions at existing industry," Hannah said.

The largest industrial project on this year's list is the $30 million Welspun Plant in Little Rock, overseen by May Construction Co. of Little Rock.

Hannah isn't seeing any restraint in the market from customers worried about a downturn in the economy either.

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of fear factor among the clients or owners that building right now is a bad idea," he said. "Most of them think the faster they can get their projects started, the better off they will be.

"They're more worried about the cost of their project escalating than the economy."

CDI Contractors Inc. of Little Rock posted 11 entries on the 2008 list of largest commercial projects with a whopping total of $423.8 million. CDI's total last year surpassed $512 million.

Little Rock's Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. accounted for eight projects valued at $126 million, compared with $121 million in 2007. Its largest project is the $28.6 million Arkansas State Hospital Expansion on the UAMS campus in Little Rock.

Rounding out the five companies with the most projects on this year's list are Crossland Construction, with seven combining for $117.6 million, and Lindsey Construction Co. of Fayetteville, with six apartment developments adding up to $115.4 million.

Bob Shell, president of Little Rock's Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., reports that contracting demand remains steady.

"It's been very encouraging," Shell said. "As a whole, I think most commercial contractors are busy. The climate is good."

He said office construction has tapered off a bit, but the medical, school and church sectors are still strong.

"Commercially, there's not been much of a fall-off," Shell said. "Talking with architects, they have a lot of work coming out. A lot of this is generated by school work around the state."

School districts in Arkansas continue to feed new projects into the construction pipeline to upgrade or expand their facilities. Eighteen school-related projects, all in various stages of completion, were large enough to make the 2008 list.

The biggest of the bunch remains the $39 million Rogers High School 2 project by Flintco Cos. Inc. of Tulsa.

Little Rock's VCC is supervising the two largest projects with a substantial retail component on this year's list: Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers (No. 3 at $75 million) and Little Rock's The Promenade at Chenal (No. 9 at $32 million).

Arkansas contracting firms accounted for 95 of this year's 125 projects, compared with 93 out of 123 in 2007 and 82 out of 121 in 2006.



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