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Education Construction Dots the State, Dominating Commercial Projects List

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The tally of largest commercial projects in Arkansas reached $2 billion for the fourth consecutive year, powered in large part by education.

Construction efforts associated with elementary, middle school and high school facilities generated 37 entries on this year’s list of 150 projects from around the state valued at $2 million or more. This sector was home to half of the 30 largest commercial projects in 2017.

Little Rock’s Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. accounted for five of the six largest K-12 projects. Work for the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District and other central Arkansas schools provided a strong foundation of business.

At $66.7 million, the Jacksonville High School project (No. 5) is the biggest project Baldwin & Shell has underway, and others are following, too.

“We just broke ground on Sylvan Hills,” said Scott Copas, president and CEO of Baldwin & Shell. “The education building is the largest portion of that $57 million project. Other pieces will come on line later.” In addition to the energy-efficient classroom building, the Sylvan Hills project (No. 7) encompasses a media center, a 2,200-seat arena, a 1,400-seat performing arts center and a multipurpose activities center for band and athletics.

Renovation work to current facilities will follow and further expand the capacity for even more students.

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“K-12 has been huge, and we have a really large backlog,” Copas said.

Baldwin & Shell posted 10 K-12 projects on this year’s Largest Commercial Projects list. Conway’s Nabholz Construction Corp. contributed 16 K-12 entries, the most of any general contractor.

The $101 million Southwest High School in Little Rock (No. 3) overseen by Nabholz is the largest K-12 project on this year’s list.

“We just had groundbreaking in October, so there’s still work going on with design,” said Greg Williams, CEO of Nabholz Construction Corp. “It’s been nice to see the education work continue. Health care has come back the past few years, too.” The health care sector supplied a dozen entries on this year’s list. Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale (No. 2 at $104.4 million), the largest project on the list for Nabholz, will begin operations next month. The contractor is finishing some minor details and should be off site by the end of March.

Nabholz has three projects on the St. Bernards Medical Center campus in Jonesboro.

The biggest of the trio is the surgery tower-emergency department ambulance entrance, No. 4 at $82 million.

“We’re just coming out of the ground with the tower,” Williams said. “The Jonesboro market has been good for us, and the northwest market has been amazing.” Razorback’s No. 1 Northwest Arkansas is home to the largest project on this year’s list, the $132.5 million contract to upgrade Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas.

The scope of the work includes enclosing the north end zone, building new premium seating, rebuilding the Broyles Athletic Center, installing new elevators in the northeast and northwest and adding a new video board at the south end of the stadium.

Work is expected to be complete before the season opener against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 1.

The project is a joint venture between Little Rock’s CDI Contractors LLC and Hunt Construction Group of Indianapolis.

Collegiate projects provided 16 entries on this year’s list. Nine of those are taking place on the UA-Fayetteville campus.

The biggest south Arkansas project in this year’s list is the Murphy USA Headquarters, No. 12 at $34.5 million.

“It’s wrapping up,” said William Clark, CEO of Clark Contractors LLC of Little Rock. “The project is a total redo of a 30-plus-year-old building.” The renovation job represents a massive makeover of the old Murphy Oil headquarters in El Dorado. Spanning 24 months, the work has updated the design of all four floors while adding new mechanical and electrical systems.

With Murphy Oil out of the building and in its new, neighboring headquarters, spinoff Murphy USA will be able to consolidate all of its local operations under one roof in the revamped space.

Little Rock produced the most entries on this year’s list of largest commercial projects. The 2017 count is 27 projects.

The capital city is home to the biggest apartment project: Fitzroy at Chenal Apartments, No. 11 at $35 million. Little Rock’s Huffman & Co. is the general contractor on this multifamily development.

Fayetteville contributed 15 projects this year. The Washington County seat provided the biggest arts-related project: TheatreSquared, No. 15 at $25 million.

Baldwin & Shell is overseeing construction of this project, a block south of Dickson Street at the southeast corner of West Avenue and Spring Street.

Other largest projects in a sampling of cities include Bentonville, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Parking Facility, No. 13 at $32.5 million; Rogers, Arkansas Arts Academy expansion and remodel, No. 21 at $205 million; Fort Smith, U.S. Marshals Museum, No. 27 at $18.6 million; and Conway, Baptist Health Medical Office Building, No. 50 at $10.7 million.

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