Several local architectural and engineering firms here say voter approval of bonds and levies earlier this year have helped spur added work for them in the form of school projects.
Spokane County voters approved 18 of 21 school ballot measures in February, and school districts have been soliciting and accepting bids since then.
Architects and engineers are generally the first to see changes in construction activity.
Steven Marsh is the Spokane-based regional manager at Thomas, Dean & Hoskins Inc. Headquartered in Great Falls, Mont., TD&H’s work here includes civil, structural, and environmental engineering and planning for infrastructure projects.
“The amount of work that we continue to get just keeps coming in wave after wave after wave,” Marsh says.
He says activity in the company’s structural engineering department serves as the strongest indicator of the gains in its workload here.
“We went from a staff of one to a staff of five in just two years. That is the best barometer to measure the growth among our commercial development and industrial clients,” Marsh says.
Kristen Becker, development services center manager with the city of Spokane, says the number of construction permits that have been through the city’s pre-development process is up 2 percent year to date from 2014 and up 7 percent from 2013. Additionally, Becker says single-family residence permits are up 57 percent from last year.
Building permit activity in the city shows $167.2 million in valuation for new construction for the first nine months of this year, compared to $146 million in the same period of 2014.
High-dollar projects in the city slated for 2016 are $21 million in improvements for two Larry H. Miller dealerships downtown and $11.5 million in upgrades at North Central High School at 1600 N. Howard.
Keith Comes, managing principal at NAC|Architecture, says three of that firm’s top current projects are school facilities, two of them in Spokane and the other in Ellensburg, Wash. Comes says design work is underway for replacing Salk Middle School, at 6411 N. Alberta in northwest Spokane, while construction for modernization and improvements at North Central will start in January.
At Salk, the new 100,000-square-foot replacement school will be located south of the existing school. Estimated construction cost is $26 million. Construction is scheduled to start in March and to be completed in fall 2017. Work on Salk’s new $6.1 million gymnasium wrapped up last summer.
At ALSC Architects PS, marketing director Terri McRae says designs are in the early stages for a new Northwood Middle School to be built just south of the current building at 13120 N. Pittsburg, in the Mead School District north of Spokane. The construction cost for the new school is expected to be $29 million for the new school. Groundbreaking there is scheduled for summer 2016 with a completion date of May 2018, McRae says.
“We’re doing a lot of school work,” McRae says.
The capital projects that are either planned or underway exceed $850 million in estimated value. Spokane voters approved a $145 million Spokane Public Schools bond to finance major construction for 2015 through 2021. The projects range in estimated value from $4.5 million for classroom additions at Lewis & Clark High School on the lower South Hill to the $37 million for Salk.
“These were significant bond issues the voters passed, and what it does is gives architectural and engineering firms a good amount of work for the foreseeable future,” McRae says. “There will be many projects coming over the coming years.”
However, McRae says it’s hard to quantify just how much estimated work those education projects, or others not related to schools, will generate in future revenue for individuals firms.
“The best I can say is that we’re a lot busier right now than we were this time last year,” McRae says. “There’s no doubt about that.”
ALSC is also designing a remodel and expansion of Evergreen Middle School, at 14221 E. 16th. The existing building has about 73,000 square feet, and the planned addition will increase that by about 31,000 square feet. Evergreen’s $21.8 million renovation is scheduled to begin next March and to be completed in December 2017. That project is one of six that the Central Valley School District plans to start in the next two years.
Those projects are being funded with proceeds from a $121.9 million voters in the CV district approved in February, as well as an estimated $58 million in state funds.
ALSC is also in the preliminary design phase for a 30,000-square-foot student recreation center at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene with an approximate cost of $7 million, McRae says.
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