Philly’s construction industry is turning inward to cope with the city’s construction boom


The Philadelphia Effects boom in permits at the end of 2021 began to make themselves felt in the construction industry.

Due to a change in the city’s tax code, permits for more than 25,000 residential units were issued last year, and a large influx of national and institutional players drew up science development plans of life for capitalize on the momentum of the cell and gene therapy industries of Philadelphia.

Now, even as the financial terms have left many developers breathless, enough plans have advanced to the tender stage to give construction companies all they can handle.

“Many projects that were pushed back are now coming to fruition,” said Calvin Snowden, managing partner of local construction firm BDFS Group. “We are getting more calls and emails than ever to bid on projects, enough that we expect to have a strong first quarter next year.”

A significant portion of the more than 25,000 residential units authorized by the city last year will likely never be built. Many developers submitted applications for projects with only an outside chance of one day happening to lock in the full 10-year tax abatement on new builds. Residential construction projects authorized after December 31 only get one year without property tax payments at the end, paying 10% in the second year and an additional 10% each year thereafter, until the full property tax is paid after 10 years.

But developers of projects entirely intended to build when they applied for permits last year are much harder to get off the ground if those companies had not locked in construction financing before the summer, when interest rates began to climb in earnest and loans dried up for many.

The National Association of Home Builders expected 2023 to see significantly fewer multifamily construction starts than this year based on negative sentiment expressed in its Third Quarter Multifamily Market Survey. published Thursday.

Meanwhile, although three major life science projects are set to be delivered in the coming months in University City – 3.0 University Place, One uCity Square and the first ground building at Schuylkill Yards – the collapse of pre-revenue life science company funding nationwide has doubted how robust the next wave of these developments will be.

“Have we seen any advanced projects? Yes,” said Jodi Rennie, vice president of Turner Construction and general manager of Pennsylvania. bisnowat the Philadelphia State of the Market event on September 29.

While a strong pipeline of projects falters but continues to pour in, Turner and BDFS both expect business to be flat next year compared to this year. But meeting the demands of these projects will require both companies to look outwards.

Although the prices of materials start to normalizeconstruction works stays extremely tight and wages have increased over the past year and most of this year. Skilled and experienced workers can “write their own ticket,” Snowden said, and are more likely than ever to leave a job for a better deal within weeks of being hired.

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Bisnow/Matthieu Rothstein

Andrew Mele of Trammell Crow Co., Jodi Rennie of Turner Construction and Jamie Sweigart of High Concrete

A disturbing portion of the construction workforce is approaching retirement age. To the extent that recruiting efforts launched years ago by construction companies have paid off, the new workforce is too young to take on too much responsibility.

“I’m very mindful of my talent pool and succession plan, so I worry about how to compensate for that. [experience] gap,” Snowden said. “So I’m trying to figure out whether to acquire other companies that have qualified guys or do some risk work with other companies that have qualified guys.”

To avoid bidding wars for in-demand workers, and with the scarcity of skilled workers seeking employment, construction companies large and small are breaking contracts to share work with other companies after winning bids.

“For us, it’s part of the strategy in the type of work that we pursue,” Turner Philadelphia general manager David Kaminski said. bisnow in an interview. “We will decide [contracts] a little more to increase the number of bidders and companies that compete and can help bring the project to fruition.

In addition to the benefit of meeting job requirements, sharing work in this way gives greater access to women- and minority-owned businesses, the vast majority of which are too small to undertake development projects on their own. large-scale construction, Snowden and Kaminski agreed. .

Building the capacity of businesses owned by underrepresented groups has been one of the main concerns for professional organizations representing these groups, the city of Philadelphia and its major institutions for several years now. The last two years have produced tangible results in places.

Mosaic Development Partners, co-developer of the Philadelphia Shipyard, has implemented a capacity building program for various partner contractors hailed by the city, so much so that PIDC imitated him in his search for a company to redevelop the family court building.

The fastest growing company in the past two years in Philadelphia has been Benchmark Construction Group, co-owned by Kenn Penn, the co-founder of the Philadelphia Chapter of African American Real Estate Professionals, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

The industry’s momentum is building, Snowden and Kaminski agreed.

“We want to create the right environment in our projects,” Kaminski said. “When we have a workforce that resembles the community we’re building in, it creates the right environment.”


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