Price tag rising on Arts District projects

A trio of change-orders and construction costs for additional parking at the Bell building could increase the cost of the Hamilton Street arts projects by as much as $2.1 million.

The Redevelopment Agency on Wednesday approved three change-orders to the Bell building renovation project totaling about $348,000. The largest change-order was $275,000 for site work all the way around the building to the nearest adjacent home, which includes some drainage work. Another change order for $4,500 was for an alternate bid for the roof, and another set aside $68,500 for mold remediation throughout the building.

Mold is on most of the walls, studs and rafters in the Bell building, City Engineer James Housten said during a presentation to the Redevelopment Agency last week. Remediation will be done in two phases: first, clean and demolish the walls, and then the roof and windows will be installed at which point the entire interior can be fogged.

The change-orders increase the $5.825-million contract for the Bell building to $6.173 million, which Housten said was still less than the $6.2 million in the current account for the project. The cost of parking construction, however, came in at a total of almost $1.6 million, including $815,000 for Lot A and $256,000 for Lot B, and another $507,000 for soft costs and contingency.

Lot A, where the amphitheater originally was planned, would have 99 spaces while Lot B would have 58 spaces, along with 16 remaining behind the Bell Building, for a total 173 spaces, almost as many as the 202 seats planned for the black box theater, Housten told commissioners last week.

Construction bids for the Bell building renovations also don’t include the soft costs for architect fees, $281,000; engineering fees, $260,000, and utilities, $25,000. In all, the project could need another $2.1 million, not including bond and legal costs, which is broken down in this Google spreadsheet.

At least one commissioner, Timothy Nash, seemed concerned during discussion of the costs possibly rising to $8 million or more for the projects. “That’s a lot of money,” he said.

If City Council approves financing next month, the city could bid the parking lots and break ground by August, Housten said. If all goes well, both the parking lots and black box theater would open sometime next spring. He reminded commissioners that the parking lot would be available for a lot of other uses, not just the Bell building, such as the Union County Performing Arts Center and downtown activities and restaurants.

The City Council last year approved an $8.5-million bond ordinance for construction of the Hamilton Street arts projects. The Redevelopment Agency in January decided to move forward with the black box theater and build temporary parking at the site of the proposed amphitheater.