There are few guarantees in life, but one of them is that 180 Market Street will be constructed for no more than $17,292,833 million. That surety follows a Guaranteed Maximum Price to the city from contractor Engelberth Construction.

The total project cost is greater than initially anticipated following an extensive stormwater management system redesign and delayed groundbreaking. The total price tag for 180 Market Street will be about $22.07 million. There is a funding gap of about $700,000, which has been approved to be funded by the City Center Reserve Fund. This gap is a product of increased costs and decreased revenues, said Project Director Ilona Blanchard.

City Council weighs in

On Monday, Oct. 7, the city council authorized City Manager Kevin Dorn to execute a contract amendment for a guaranteed maximum price and use of reserve funds for the project should they be required. The vote was 3:1 with one abstention. Councilor Thomas Chittenden abstained from voting citing his opposition to the project since initial discussions. Councilor Tim Barritt voted against the authorization. He told The Other Paper it was to remain consistent with his “no” votes, regarding the new city hall/library/senior center.

Groundbreaking on the community center was originally set for June 2019 but will now likely occur on Nov. 13 – in conjunction with the Market Street ribbon cutting.

Last winter, conversations began between the school district and the city about a stormwater management system that would have required an easement from the school. District concerns rose in March when the city requested an additional 0.4-acre easement from the Rick Marcotte Central School campus. The additional space would have been needed to comply with the state’s stormwater regulations under the original design.

After months of discussions, the city and school district settled on a new, more complex design with separated and underground systems. The new system requires more time to design, build, review and permit, Blanchard said.

“This was a negotiation, this was something that both the city and the school had to be able to support and live with,” City Manager Kevin Dorn said. “The simple fact is that the delay has led to increased costs, but we’re not critical of or blaming the school district about that.”

Increased project costs are associated with rising annual construction costs, the extensive stormwater management system redesign, as well as a change in the formula for net-metering.

Construction cost increases were driven by higher material costs, tariffs and a “seller’s market” for construction services, according to a memo from Blanchard. Material costs also went up and subcontractors left the job due to the schedule change, which resulted in a higher bidder being selected.

Also adding to costs are new construction phases. Originally, the building’s stormwater management system was separate from the parking lot, so the two could be constructed concurrently. Now, with the stormwater system designed below the parking lot, it will have to be constructed first with parking to follow. That, Blanchard said, requires more time and money.

The new construction timeframe also means more work will occur in the winter, increasing heating costs and with them, overall costs.

Cutting costs, not cutting corners

Cutting costs to stick close to the voter approved budget while maintaining program functions has been the name of the game for the project team. Blanchard, along with project partners, have worked for over a year to cut costs, while maintaining the building’s functions as a library, city hall and senior center.

Certain design elements, materials and finishes have been changed from the original design to diminish the burgeoning bill. Last fall, the team reduced the footprint of the building, shaving off some square footage on its first floor – without eliminating specific rooms.

Other efficiencies have been found in the design, such as reducing the number of wood finishes, Blanchard said. Acoustical treatments in walls, ceilings and doors have also been reduced wherever possible. The “green roof ready” feature, which would have allowed for plants on the roof, has been nixed. Likewise, the styles, quantities and manufacturers of flooring, countertops and lighting have been changed, Blanchard said.

“Everyone involved with the project has really worked hard to put their best foot forward and cooperate in terms of working together to find solutions that are cost effective,” Blanchard said.

But despite the changes, the city is confident 180 Market Street will be a wonderful addition to South Burlington’s City Center.

“It’s going to be a spectacular building,” Dorn said. “It’s going to be a wonderful building for the public.”

“I think for many people, they’re going to wonder how they lived without it,” Blanchard said. “We’re hoping it will feel easy to use and lived in from day one.”

Elements unchanged

The building will retain some elements from its original design. Namely, all the program needs of the library, city hall and senior center.

The building’s exterior wall materials will remain like those in initial designs. The sides that are visible to public streets will be decked in “high-quality materials that will not fade or degrade over time,” Blanchard said.

Solar generation is still part of the building. The front roof eave/sunshade projection were maintained in new designs for the “tremendous character” and long-term operational savings they add to the building, Blanchard said.

Fittings for a rooftop solar array will still be constructed, however, the city will no longer install or own the array.

“The original model was that we would own it and build it and so then we would have taken the revenues and allotted them to part of the project costs,” Blanchard said. “We’re not going to own it, most likely, and so we’ll be contracting with somebody else.”

Indeed, Dorn said that the city has had discussions with several local solar companies and is confident someone will install the array. There is an issue around net-metering that must be resolved in the legislature, but Dorn said he’s confident that will be solved. The city will likely lease the rooftop space or share credits with whoever installs the array.

Dorn added that it’s possible whoever builds the array might construct it concurrently with the city’s own construction efforts.

“It’ll come in,” Blanchard said. “It will be an integral part of the building; it’s just we’re not folding it into the budget.”

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