Industry News

Staff | September 28, 2010

Construction of Rhode Island's tallest building is expected to get under way by Suffolk Construction Co. Inc. of Boston in March. Some preliminary work has already taken place for 110 Westminster, a 40-story residential/hotel complex being developed by BlueChip Properties LLC, with the demolition of one building and partial demolition of another. To be built in the financial district of downtown Providence between two historic landmarks — the Arcade and the Turks Head Building — the 520-foot-tall building has a footprint of 24,000 square feet and will be framed of cast-in-place concrete. The developer scrapped its original design for the building, which called for a steel frame, when soaring steel costs made the concrete alternative more cost-effective. Using concrete instead of steel reportedly enabled the developer to pick up an additional two floors while maintaining the same overall height and the same floor-to-ceiling height on the individual floors. One of the major challenges for the developers in this historic part of downtown Providence was to create a balance between economic development and historic preservation. With this in mind, the developer called for the partial demolition of one of the existing buildings on the site, leaving a portion of the historic façade intact.

Contractor CEI Boston LLC recently broke ground in Norfolk, Mass., for its new 14,000-square-foot corporate headquarters. Located in the Shire Industrial Park, the building will house all estimating, sales, administrative, equipment repair, and maintenance for the company, which performs construction and demolition. Occupancy for the company's new headquarters is planned for spring 2007.

United Rentals, headquartered in Greenwich, will sell its traffic control business to HTS Acquisition, Inc., an entity newly formed by affiliates of private equity investors Wynnchurch Capital Partners and Oak Hill Special Opportunities Fund, L.P.

HTS Acquisition will pay United Rentals $85 million in cash, subject to certain working capital and other adjustments. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2007. United Rentals' traffic control business represents one of the company's three financial reporting segments. In 2005, full-year traffic control revenues were $270 million, or 8 percent of total revenues. By comparison, the company's primary business segment, general rentals, reported $3.11 billion of revenues in 2005, or 87 percent of total revenues. United Rentals, Inc. is the largest equipment rental company in the world, with more than 760 rental locations in 48 states, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico. The company has 13,900 employees and offers for rent over 20,000 classes of rental equipment with a total original cost of $4.1 billion.

Work on two liquefied natural gas (LNG) delivery terminals to be sited in federal waters approximately 13 miles and 7 miles south-southeast of Gloucester, Mass., could begin soon following Governor Mitt Romney's recent approval of the Northeast Gateway and Neptune projects. Romney's approval, required under the Deep Water Port Act (DWPA), was followed by a letter to the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) listing various conditions for inclusion in the DWPA licenses. If MARAD grants the licenses, Northeast Gateway could begin construction as early as the spring of 2007 with service beginning in December of that year. Neptune could begin construction in the spring of 2009 with operations following in December of that year. Together, the two facilities would have the potential to provide an additional 1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to New England — a 20-percent increase over current peak supply. The new terminals will allow Massachusetts to supplement gas shipments to the Distrigas LNG facility in Everett, Mass., which provides about a third of the gas consumed in the state during the coldest days. Offshore LNG terminals, such as the Northeast Gateway and Neptune projects, are essentially underwater buoys that attach to the bottom of LNG tankers for offloading gas in its vaporized form. Equipment on board the tankers converts the liquefied natural gas to vapor and then pumps the vaporized gas into a pipeline that will link to the existing Hubline Natural Gas Pipeline that crosses Massachusetts Bay.

Jennian Enterprises of Melrose, Mass., and ACF Environmental of Richmond, Va., have agreed to join forces to expand their presence in the New England geosynthetics market. The new operation will be known as ACF/JENNIAN, with Bill Hughes, co-owner and founder of Jennian Enterprises, remaining in his management role.

Jennian Enterprises, established in 1989, provides solutions to geotechnical and erosion control problems, while ACF Environmental supplies geosynthetic solutions to the construction industry. Geosynthetics are used to reinforce the earth's natural terrain to facilitate construction, manage storm water runoff, prevent erosion, and keep sediment out of lakes and waterways. ACF was founded in 1984 and currently has 15 locations throughout the eastern United States.

A $100-million vocational school for Springfield, Mass., will soon be under construction. The city recently selected consultant PinnacleOne to provide owner's project management services for the construction of a 350,000-square-foot expansion of the R.L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School. PinnacleOne will manage the budgeting, planning, procurement of design, bidding, and prequalification of contractors for the project at the school, the first public school to use and comply with new Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) regulations that were finalized in August 2006. R.L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School is part of the Springfield Public Schools system, which serves 27,000 students and is the second-largest school district in New England. At present the vocational school has 1,330 students in 380,000 square feet, and provides courses in culinary arts, construction, design, cosmetology, nursing, allied health, auto mechanics, graphic arts, and computer/technology repair, among others. The school expansion, which calls for "green building" design, is expected to be completed by September 2010. At this time the architect and contractors have not been selected, and request for proposals are expected to be issued in March 2007. Consultant PinnacleOne, a subsidiary of ARCADIS, is headquartered in Phoenix and has locations in six states including offices in Boston, Mass., and Hartford, Conn. Its staff, which includes construction managers, architects and engineers, are involved in more than $10 billion in public construction.

The Davis Narrows Bridge connecting Brooksville and Penobscot, Maine, won two awards in the 2006 Design Awards competition sponsored by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute. Designed by the Maine Department of Transportation and built by Reed & Reed of Woolwich, Maine, the project was singled out as the Best All-Precast Concrete Bridge by the Special Awards Jury and as the Best Bridge with Spans Between 65 and 135 Feet. The precast concrete bridge replaced a deteriorated single-span bridge, built in 1941 of painted steel-rolled beams on dry-laid granite blocks. The new design eliminates tide constrictions and is sensitive to the river environment, which serves as the breeding ground for Horseshoe crabs and as a natural fishing ground. Strescon Limited in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, produced the precast components, which consist of four precast concrete abutments, four wing walls, eight precast, pretsressed beams, and four approach slabs.

The Big Dig tunnel that claimed the life of a Boston woman has been reopened to traffic after being closed for nearly six months. Milena Del Valle was killed on July 10, 2006, when a car driven by her husband in which she was a passenger was crushed by falling 4,000-pound concrete ceiling panels in the westbound Interstate 90 connector tunnel. After the accident officials closed the tunnel and inspected all of the panels and supporting bolts. Investigators have attributed the collapse of the ceiling panels to the failure of supporting bolts that had been drilled and epoxied in place in the tunnel roof. They determined that many of the 6-inch to 8-inch bolts had loosened since they were installed and could no longer support the weight of some of the panels. Repairs costing an estimated $34 million have been under way for several months and are essentially complete at this writing. The I-90 westbound connector tunnel from Logan Airport and the South Boston waterfront is now open and motorists from Logan Airport/Route 1A can continue westbound through the Ted Williams Tunnel directly into the I-90 westbound connector tunnel to points west. Several lawsuits have been filed in the aftermath of the accident. Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has sued 15 contractors on the project charging them with negligence, the Del Valle family is suing the state and the contractors, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is intervening in the lawsuit filed by the Attorney General seeking $3 million from the contractors because the city has spent a large amount of money for police, fire and other costs to manage traffic detours and other problems associated with the closing of the tunnels.

P.J. Keating Company Inc.'s Lunenburg, Mass., facility recently received notification that they had received the Diamond Achievement Commendation for Excellence in Hot-Mix Asphalt Plant/Site Operations from the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA). This award is given each year to hot-mix asphalt production facilities that operate in an exemplary manner. P.J. Keating also received this award in 2005. The company's Lunenburg plant is one of only 63 in the United States that have achieved the Diamond Award in each year of the program, which is open to everyone in the hot-mix industry regardless of whether or not they are NAPA members. Nominations are verified by members of the local community and are then evaluated by a nationally known independent assessment firm. Founded in 1923, P.J. Keating was acquired by Oldcastle Materials in 1994. Keating produces crushed stone (about 4 million tons of crushed stone each year), manufactures hot mix asphalt, builds roads, performs fine grading, and also serves as a general contractor. The company employs 350 and has an average annual sales volume of $115 million.