|By Scott Kraus, The Morning Call,
Allentown, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 06, 2012--Allentown's downtown hockey arena complex is designed to include an eight-story hotel with a restaurant and one floor of meeting rooms, a six-story office building with a penthouse level and a 125-space underground parking garage that will be accessible from Eighth Street.
The historic Dime Bank building on Seventh Street will house the hotel lobby, and include a "party deck" at the same level as the arena's lower suites. Guests sipping cocktails before events at the hotel will be able to congregate on a catwalk that will line up with the fourth floor of the office building.
All of it is expected to be completed using domestic steel, priced out using union labor, and ready for occupancy by Sept. 13, 2013.
The additional details come from unreleased bid documents the Allentown Commercial Industrial Development Authority is using to select a construction services company to carry out the work. The documents were obtained Monday by The Morning Call.
The authority, which is overseeing construction of the 8,500-seat arena at Seventh and Hamilton streets, has not announced a construction company or who will run the hotel or occupy the office building.
City officials, Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Scott Unger and Hammes Company Sports Development Inc., which is overseeing arena construction, did not return calls seeking comment Monday.
The arena, estimated to cost $158 million, will host the Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, as well as concerts and other cultural and sports events. City officials have said they are negotiating with a private developer on the offices and hotel.
Interest in the project is high. The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce sold all 300 seats to its forward-looking annual business breakfast featuring Mayor Ed Pawlowski on Wednesday. That's never happened before, said Miriam Huertas, the Chamber's Allentown representative.
Here are a few new details about the project, according to the ACIDA request for proposals:
-- The authority has a goal of using 15 percent minority and 5 percent women construction workers and contractors on the arena project.
-- The hotel and Hamilton Street retail and restaurant spaces should be ready for interior finishes by May 2013, offices by June 2013.
-- Foundation work will begin in April with steel erection to start in June and the arena roof to be completed by February 2013.
-- Engraved bricks in the sidewalks around the arena will be removed and stored in a place where the public can retrieve them.
-- A seven-story, 637-space parking garage will be on the Linden Street side of the arena.
Instructions for bidders to estimate the cost of the project using union workers doesn't please Geoffrey Zeh, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Eastern Pennsylvania, a group that advocates for open competition between union and nonunion firms.
The group sued the city of Allentown last year, resulting in City Council rescinding an ordinance that required union contractors on certain large city projects.
"I have never seen anything like this, but it is clear from the first sentence it is union-only," Zeh said.
Local union leaders said a project the size of the arena with a tight construction schedule requires a firm with the ability to tap the deep pool of trained workers maintained by construction trade unions.
"The guys are available," said Ken Kraft, business agent with District Council 21 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. "If I can't get them from right here, I will get them from another local next to us."
Kraft said Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem were built with union labor.
The "Union Requirements" section of the bid documents requires prospective construction managers to base their cost proposals "on using all union trades," and requires bidders to identify any trades that won't be union and list reasons why, as well as any cost savings that would provide.
The authority has awarded excavation work to Vollers Excavating of Branchburg, N.J., a union contractor affiliated with Local 452 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
Construction unions donated $36,120 to Pawlowski's campaign fund in 2011. Campaign manager Mike Fleck said last month that unions have long been supporters of the mayor.
ACIDA's request for proposals asks construction managers to commit to a "guaranteed maximum price" to complete the arena. It's a common method used to hold costs to a budget, said Brian Perlberg, senior counsel for construction law and contracts with the Associated General Contractors of America.
In guaranteed maximum price projects, a construction contractor agrees to complete a project at a certain price, subject to various contingencies, Perlberg said. If the project goes over budget, the cost is borne by the construction management firm.
A guaranteed maximum contract for construction services could help speed project completion, said Henry M. Koffman, director of the construction management and engineering program at the University of Southern California. Finishing by September 2013 will be tight, he said.
"That's really ambitious, very aggressive. They can work double shifts, work on weekends, it will add to the cost," Koffman said.
-- Foundation work begins: April 2012
-- Steel erection starts: June 2012
-- Complete roofing over arena bowl: February 2013
Complete arena, office, hotel enclosure: March 2013
Office, hotel ready for interior fit-out: May 2013
Ice slab complete: July 2013
Parking garages ready: August 2013
Arena occupancy: Sept. 13, 2013
Source: Request for proposals for construction services Allentown Arena Development Allentown, Pennsylvania.
(c)2012 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Visit The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) at www.mcall.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services