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January 11, 2010 

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Pardon our headline; it was three economists at Friday’s American Institute of Architects/TEXO economic outlook; but, like a tenor, they spoke of deep treble—sorry, make that trouble. Specifically, retail was hit hard and office was overbuilt in 2009. Though, education, public works, and healthcare, show promise.
AIA chief economist Kermit Baker

We snapped AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, who reminds us construction is typically the last major sector of the economy to recover. With the current recession ending in March, he says history shows it takes about two years for a recovery. Recent job reports offer no good news, he says, but everyone is starting to watch the clock for signs.

McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge senior director for editorial operations Cliff Brewis

Overbuilding is causing a decline in office occupancy, and firms are hesitant to add new staffers, according to McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge editorial honcho Cliff Brewis. It’ll take most of next year, he adds, to get a return on the glut of recent projects. Even when employment grows after the recession, it’s unlikely to return to previous levels. He says stimulus packages have made a positive contribution to public works projects in the state, and Texas healthcare projects lead the nation in square footage of new starts.

AGC chief economist Ken Simonson

AGC chief economist Ken Simonson warns small construction employers to pay attention to the new healthcare legislation. He said, as a general rule, there was relief for employers with fewer than 15 employees. But, one proposal has reduced the threshold for construction employers to those with fewer than five. Now, he says, those with 5-50 employees will be singled out for penalties for not providing coverage the government considers adequate.

CD Henderson Construction Group’s VP Jim Hemsworth and Rogers-O’Brien VP Paul Johnson

CD Henderson Construction Group VP Jim Hemsworth and Rogers-O’Brien VP Paul Johnson. With funding, or lack thereof, putting many projects on hold, their companies are taking on smaller projects that can usually get capital. Schools, hospitals and churches seem to be all the rage these days. Less so for the people in them, we imagine, at least for the first two.

Our publisher snapped these pics of so-called “CityCenter” in Las Vegas last week. It’s the most expensive private development in the history of the US, nestled (if that can be a word for 67 acres and 18M SF of development) between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio right on the Strip, where you probably didn’t think they could fit anything else. Those Veer Towers that look like they’re falling over (a deliberate optical effect of course) were designed by Helmut Jahn, who designed NYC’s CitySpire building, among others.
This is part of a 500k-SF retail and entertainment complex called Crystals, designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind with interiors by David Rockwell. The whole CityCenter used 77k tons of steel, 1.2M cubic yards of concrete, 30 cranes, 3.7M SF of curtain wall façade, 17k miles of electrical wiring, and the resources of MGM Mirage and Dubai World. (When Dubai World had resources.)
A lot of glass here at the 4,004 room Aria Hotel, where your ever-sacrificing publisher stayed on the 51st floor and constantly had to run down to the casino to get cell phone reception. (Interesting slice of humanity you run into at the gaming tables at 6 AM.) The Aria, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli of Winter Garden fame, and the neighboring Vdara Hotel (a little boutique at just 1,495 rooms, though all suites) by Rafael Vinoly—both sport interiors by BBG-BBGM. There is also the teenie weenie Mandarin Oriental at 392 rooms done by Kohn Pedersen Fox. Do we like it? Well, stunning architecture, but, to be perfectly honest, it’s a bit too 22nd Century sleek for us; we’re still transitioning into the 21st.
Send story ideas to Tonie Auer, tonie@bisnow.com
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