Friday, March 30, 2012

Is Chicago Area Construction Recovering?

Maybe. A little bit.

The Chicago and northeastern Illinois area had 14 of the top 35 construction starts in the Midwest in 2011, totaling nearly two billion dollars. The top 35 starts were in Illinois, with 14, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Chicago area top starts include 5 residential projects totaling $616 million dollars, 4 higher education projects totaling $457 million, two health care projects totaling $319 million, one infrastructure project at $300 million, and two industrial projects totaling $290 million, for a grand total of $1.982 billion in very major new construction jobs breaking ground before year’s end.

These top projects were garnered by contractors with household names in the region, including McHugh with 3 projects, W. E. O’Neil with 2, Benesch, Pepper, Lend Lease and Power with one each, and five less well known builders grabbing the rest of the work. Two of the higher education projects are at the University of Illinois, one at the University of Chicago, and one at DePaul University in Chicago. The new hospital construction is located in suburban Oak Lawn and Hoffman Estates, and the infrastructure project is phase 2 of the Wacker Drive reconstruction in Chicago’s loop, which no one driving or walking in the downtown area could possibly miss.

Add to these projects the $7 billion in Chicago Infrastructure Trust projects estimated yesterday by Mayor Emmanuel in a speech at the West Side Laborers’ Union Hall, and you have some significant employment for skilled tradespeople in the northeastern Illinois area. While still awaiting City Council approval, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust already has one project on the drawing boards – energy efficiency improvements to existing City of Chicago buildings – and includes acceleration of construction of two runways at O’Hare International Airport, all to be paid for by City cost savings or user fees – no new taxes on Chicago’s citizens. Mayor Emmanuel also mentioned repair of many miles of aging City water mains, and construction of new parks and schools, without any specifics as to locations or how the projects will be funded by the trust.

Mayor Emmanuel predicted in his speech that the Chicago Infrastructure Trust projects should create 30,000 jobs in the coming years. Add that $7 billion in construction spending to the nearly $2 billion already underway, and you have the beginnings of some sort of construction recovery.

blog comments powered by Disqus