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Bids for H-F High arts addition come in high

The District 233 Finance Committee got unwelcome news Wednesday when Ed Wright of DLA Architects told them bids for work on the proposed Performing Arts Center came in more than $4 million over what is budgeted.
The school district has a plan to build new spaces at Homewood-Flossmoor High School for performing arts, band and orchestra and to redesign current spaces for fine arts. The board has budgeted $10 million for the project.
Wright said the district got seven bids. The lowest bid was $14.37 million. He gave an initial estimate of $12 million in November 2017,  but the board set a target of $10 million in spring 2018. 
Wright said his estimates have been based on previous costs of between $300 and $350 per square foot.  These bids came in at about $425 per square foot.
“I struggle with recommending that $425 cost. You’re paying premium for the market conditions right now,” Wright said.
“It’s unfortunately becoming a bad time for construction in what we’re seeing in the costs. It’s all hitting right now. We didn’t see it last year although we knew something was coming. It’s all just taking its toll right now,” Wright told Finance Committee members Steve Anderson, Jody Scariano and Beth Larocca.
He said there are several reasons for the higher prices:
  1. Scope of the project – higher costs for new electrical systems; a foundation that needs to go down 9-feet, rather than the traditional 4-feet because of poor soil; higher than expected costs to remodel existing spaces for new uses; adding several pieces to the project that initially were deemed nonessential. 
  2. Recent federal tariffs have increased the cost of steel by 30 percent and copper by 100 percent.
  3. Construction is booming now, so the bids have higher than expected costs for labor.
“That’s a bitter pill to swallow. Some of it’s coming out of Washington and maybe that goes away,” but for now the district has to consider how to move ahead, Anderson said.
The Finance Committee asked Wright to rebid the full project with an August start time, rather than the initial April start date.  The committee also asked for August construction bids on Phase I of the project, a black box addition onto the Mall Auditorium. That space would be available for uses by all student programs, not just the performing arts.
The district solicited bids for the entire project and in pieces hoping it could get some costs down, but there was no noticeable advantage, Wright said.
“There is construction everywhere and several (bidders) told us flat out (they) didn’t even need this for this summer, so you’re seeing markups in their labor rates,” Wright said.
“We’ve been putting up masonry buildings for 35 years. The cost generally is $1.2 million. This came in $1.8 million.  Masonry didn’t go up, but rebar went up and labor went up.
We’re seeing that (cost increase) sprinkled across the trades and that’s just a function of where the market is right now,” he explained.

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