Wednesday, August 15, 2007

River Landing woes continue; 19th Street redevelopment costs soar, 2nd Avenue extension & reconstruction of Saunders Place 21-months behind schedule

2nd Avenue at 19th Street looking south
August 15, 2007

Saunders Place at 2nd Avenue looking west
August 15, 2007

19th Street just west of 2nd Avenue South
August 14, 2007

And the hits just keep coming.

At its August 13, 2007, meeting Saskatoon city council put the brakes on the River Landing related redevelopment of 19th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A until the fall due to rising costs.

According to a report from city manager Phil Richards the City received only one bid for $9.1 million from Graham Construction – 60% higher than the $5.7 million estimate at the time the tender was issued in June 2007. This is 82% higher than the project’s December 2006 estimate of $5 million including soft costs.

A “heated construction market and the incredible demand for subcontractors and materials” are among the factors that caused the price to skyrocket.

The project involves the removal of the 1st Avenue on-ramp bridge structure leading to the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge and the raising of 19th Street below.

The report also noted that the contractor indicated that they would not be able to meet either a fall 2007 or summer 2008 completion date and, instead, offered a fall 2008 competition.

Council voted to have city administration re-examine certain elements of the design and re-tender it in the fall hoping for a better price.

This comes on the heels of last month’s announcement by the City that the construction of the Shaw Centre Phase II Olympic-sized pool in the Blairmore Multi-District Park/School Site has exceeded its budget again – this time by $8.08 million.

A community services department report on the matter was tabled at a special meeting of city council on July 20, 2007. Since the report was not available ahead of time the public had no opportunity to speak to it.

According to the report the tender bid price submitted by PCL Construction Management Inc. “is 23 percent over the budget estimate reported to City Council on May 28, 2007 ($29,644,100), resulting in a shortfall of $7,833,014. The current project has a remaining contingency of $750,000. With a project of this magnitude, your administration would prefer to have a contingency closer to $1 million. This would result in an additional funding request of $250,000 to the project for an overall funding shortfall of $8,083,014.”

Cost increases were attributed to “areas where single bid prices were received including piling, metal steel deck, metal wall panels and roofing, and electrical. Other areas of significant increase where more than one bid was received are mechanical, reinforcing steel and the high performance south-facing wall. An increase cost for the construction of Phase II has also caused an increase to the design fees paid to the architect.”

City council voted to award a contract to PCL Construction Management Inc. for the construction of the Competitive Aquatic Centre Phase II, at a cost of $36,453,400 (the stainless steel basin and accessories are included in this cost) including P.S.T. and G.S.T.

Council also gave administration the go ahead to borrow $5-million over 15 years with annual payments of $500,000 to cover a portion of the shortfall. The rest will be picked up by shifting other monies around. The debt payments will be funded “directly from mill rate increases in 2008 and 2009 at $250,000 per year.”

The Blairmore is one of several major projects that city council rammed through during Don Atchison’s first term as mayor. The current council has unfortunately been left to deal with the fallout.

The City currently has a number of other large capital projects underway. It’s unclear whether any of them are running into similar budget problems.

Of particular interest are the planned extension of 2nd Avenue south to the roundabout and the reconstruction of Saunders Place within River Landing Phase I. These appear to be approximately 21-months behind schedule. To date the City has not reported on any possible cost overruns related to either or adequately explained their delay. This too is part of Atchison’s controversial legacy.

A timeline for the two projects show that:

1) At its November 15, 2004, meeting City Council considered city manager report F5 - EOI/RFP Process for River Landing Parcel “Y”. The Expressions of Interest states: “New roads and sidewalks include the extension to 2nd Avenue, Spadina and improvements to 3rd Avenue, which will be completed by November 2005.”

2) At its March 7, 2005, meeting City Council considered city manager report F2 - Expressions of Interest Selection and Request for Proposals for River Landing Parcel “Y”. The RFP states: “New roads and sidewalks include the extension to 2nd Avenue and Spadina, and improvements to 3rd Avenue, which will largely be completed by November 2005.”

3) At its March 7, 2005, meeting City Council received the City of Saskatoon ’s 2004 Annual Report. Page three states: “Complete extension of Second Avenue, including servicing. Underground services are approximately 65% complete on River Landing Phase I. The remainder, including the extension of Second Avenue , is scheduled to be complete in 2005/2006.”

4) The River Landing Update! Spring-Summer Edition 2006 states: “The extension of 2nd Avenue south to the roundabout will not begin this year to allow for heavy equipment access for the two adjacent construction sites (Persephone Theatre and Remai Ventures Inc.).”

5) The Request for Proposals River Landing Gathercole Arches Installation (February 28, 2007) states: “The street development of 2nd Avenue from 19th Street to Spadina Crescent is scheduled to begin construction in spring 2007. Completion of this work will depend, in part, on the construction of the Persephone Theatre to the west and the hotel site to the east.”

[It should be noted that Remai’s project did not seem to get past the design phase nor had any excavation of the site taken place. It’s not clear whether any building permits were applied for let alone issued. The project still required final approval by City Council and the Meewasin Valley Authority. Any yet Mayor Don Atchison was “surprised” when Remai pulled the plug on their spa hotel development in February 2007.]

6) At its April 16, 2007, meeting City Council considered city manager report F3 - River Landing Design/Construction Update that states: “The extension of Second Avenue south to the roundabout, the reconstruction of Saunders Place, and the construction of surface parking under the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge ramps will begin this summer.”

7) The City of Saskatoon Request for Expressions of Interest dated May 1, 2007, for Parcel “Y” within River Landing Phase I states: “New roads and sidewalks completed to date include the extension of Spadina Crescent to the Prairie Wind landmark. The extension of 2nd Avenue to Prairie Wind is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007.”

As of August 15, 2007, it appears that construction of the extension of 2nd Avenue south from 19th Street to Prairie Wind or the reconstruction of Saunders Place has yet to begin. The city has not said whether the work will be completed by the end of 2007 or put off again until next spring. Meanwhile, construction costs will no doubt continue to rise.


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