Following a recommendation from the Growth & Natural Resources Committee, City Council next week will likely vote to rebid the construction phase of the Moore Square Renovation project.
The committee, made up of Councilors Russ Stephenson, Bonner Gaylord, Dickie Thompson and Chairwoman Kay Crowder met Wednesday to discuss the issue for a second time. Staff had initially asked Council to approve a Construction Manager-at-risk contract for this job, and Council deferred the case to committee.
At the previous committee meeting, Councilors grilled staff on the reasons for choosing a Construction Manager-at-risk process for selecting a contractor, rather than a hard or low-bid process. While a CM-at-risk means the contractor is “at risk” for any overages not related to change orders, it is often a more expensive approach than a low-bid process.
One of the key differences between the two processes is that in a low-bid scenario, outside of having the lowest price, there are few criteria required for being the awarded contractor. The CM-at-risk process takes into account a firm’s history and past projects.
It was argued at the GNR April meeting that the Moore Square project was not complex enough to require a CM-at-risk, and the fact that the design work is nearly 80 percent complete means that CM would have less input.
At the top of Wednesday’s meeting, Councilor Thompson, who, along with his brothers runs the general contracting firm JM Thompson, motioned to recommend rebidding the job through a low-bid process. Councilor Stephenson thanked Thompson for all his hard work on the matter and seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
In an interview with The Record after the meeting, Thompson explained his reasoning.
“CMAR is good for, usually larger projects, more complex projects,” he said.
“There’s hardly any vertical construction here, a 1,500 square-foot shelter, something like that, you do pay a premium [for CMAR] and for going that route, so we just felt like it wasn’t worth it, not when the design is more than 80 percent done.”
Thompson added that because no contracts had been signed with the Holt Brothers/Whiting Turner partnership that City staff had selected as the most qualified CM-at-risk team for the project, it wouldn’t be a problem to simply rebid the work in a different way.
In an email to The Record, Terrence Holt of Holt Brothers stated:
“Moore Square is an important and complex project, which is why it was recommended and approved as a CM@Risk project in January by the City Council. We hope they stand by their initial decision.”
Until Council makes a decision, nothing is final. However, there are seven councilors and Mayor Nancy McFarlane, which means eight votes on any issue. Councilor Mary Ann Baldwin will likely recuse herself from this one due to her employment with Holt Brothers, which brings us down to seven possible votes. Of those seven, four voted Wednesday in favor of rebidding the job.
The Moore Square renovation wasn’t the only construction contract on Wednesday’s agenda, as the committee also heard a request from the developers of Stone’s Warehouse in Southeast Raleigh to change their contractor from Clancy & Theys to CT Wilson.
In January 2015, when City Council authorized the sale and redevelopment of the Stone’s Warehouse property in Southeast Raleigh to Transfer Company LLC, one of the elements of their proposal was that Clancy & Theys would serve as the contractor on the project.
Steven Schuster, whose firm Clearscape Architects is both the designer and an investor in the project, was on hand with Jason Queen from Transfer Company LLC to explain the request. Schuster is also the chair of the City’s Planning Commission.
Queen and Schuster were strongly admonished by several members of the committee for this last-minute change, which was said to have come as a surprise to Clancy & Theys. Thompson especially spoke to the problem with changing a contract in this fashion.
“In this city, the way we try to do business is we try to follow the Golden Rule: do unto others. Quite frankly, that didn’t happen here, and I dare say neither of you guys would’ve liked to have been treated the way you treated those guys.”
However, Scott Cutler from Clancy and Theys was on hand to assure Councilors that everything had been smoothed over, and that this incident would have no impact on the healthy working relationship between C&T and Clearscapes on the City’s Union Station project.
“We certainly recommend you go forward with this,” Cutler told the Commission.
“We’re not taking away any hard feelings about this, they have a competent team, let’s try to not get this off track.”
Schuster and Queen both cited a lack of communication for the reason behind the switch, and each took complete responsibility for the problem. Both expressed a desire to work with the City and to ensure that an issue like this would never happen again.
In addition to the two construction contracts, the Committee on Wednesday also discussed rezoning case Z-4-16. If approved, it would rezone a .36 acre parcel of land on Oberlin Road near Wade Avenue and across from the Oberlin Court development to allow for office and residential development. It is currently only zoned for residential use.
Specifically, the developer would rehab the existing house and turn it into an office for City of Oaks Law. Jonathan Anderson from the law firm was at Wednesday’s meeting, and said their existing office had a similar set up.
While the case had been recommended for approval, some neighbors argued they would prefer to see the property remain residential, even if that meant a total of three four-bedroom units could be built on the land.
Councilors were also asked to look into the possibility of adding a raised crosswalk on Oberlin Road to improve pedestrian safety.
Z-4-16 was recommended for approval.