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  • Lobby of the courthouse. Image by Lake|Flato

GSA: San Antonio Federal Courthouse is Region Seven’s “Flagship Project”

Texas Construction News from Virtual Builders Exchange

Update/Correction: 9-23-2016, 8:05 a.m. – The report as originally posted misstated the project cost range. It is between $109.6 million and $119.6 million.

Posted: 9-22-2016, 3:05 p.m.

by Adolfo Pesquera

San Antonio (Bexar Co.) – The General Services Administration Region 7 conducted a well-attended pre-proposal meeting Wednesday for general contractors hoping to land a pre-construction services contract on the pending federal courthouse building.

More than 50 contractors and subcontractors filled the Jury Assembly Room of the John H. Wood Jr. U.S. Courthouse, which has been home to the U.S. District Court-Western District of Texas-San Antonio for more than 45 years.

Among the major contractors represented were: Gilbane ConstructionSkanska USASpawGlassVision Construction Co.Yates Construction, and what appears to be a joint venture between Zachry Construction Corp. and JE Dunn ConstructionClark Construction Group also attended; Clark was reported this week as the contractor on the Frost Tower project by Weston Urban and KDC, another downtown San Antonio building.

GSA representatives discussed the proposal submittal process and answered questions. Their plan is to have a contractor onboard by the end of the year. Emphasis was put on the contractors’ experience with similar projects, and the importance of this project to the GSA.

Tracy Graham, director of design and construction from the Fort Worth office, said the project is most important project in the five state region (Texas/Arkansas/Louisiana/Oklahoma/New Mexico).

“It is our flagship project. It is a legacy building, a building that we expect to be here for generations,” Graham said. “The expectation in terms of the professionals that we’re looking for, in terms of quality is very, very high. So bring your A Team. Don’t bid on the project unless you can give us that kind of commitment.”

Because the Wood Courthouse was not originally designed to be a courthouse–it was the United States Pavilion of the 1968 Hemisfair–replacing it has long been a priority. As early as 1998, a new courthouse was on the GSA priority list for San Antonio. It was the Number 2 project on Region 7’s five-year plan in 2008 and preliminary designs were begun soon after. The project was put on hold in August 2013 for lack of funding, GSA Project Manager Timothy Thury said.

Congress finally authorized funding in May of this year and the GSA announced at the time an allocation of $144 million. The design firm, Muñoz & Co., was at 50 percent completion when the project was postponed; Lake|Flato is a consultant. In addition, the Austin office of Integral Group is the designated MEP.

Thury said they are in the process of updating the documents to new specifications for life safety and security standards.

The documents are scheduled for completion November 2017. Construction would begin the following month or January 2018. This is a three-year construction project scheduled for completion late 2020.

Joe Benjamin, associate partner at Lake|Flato said this will be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Gold certified project. Benjamin described the structure as an asymmetrical 304,696 gross square foot quadrangle with two long wings that would surround a courtyard.

There will be a single level underground parking garage below a five-story wing (south wing) with space for 83 vehicles. The parking entrance will be from Graham Avenue, and on that side will be an additional 81 parking spaces in a surface parking lot.

This site is a 7-acre city block that was the location of the former San Antonio Police Department headquarters. Its boundary streets are West Nueva Street to the north, South Santa Rosa Avenue on the west, and Graham Avenue to the south. San Pedro Creek, which will soon be undergoing major structural and aesthetic redevelopment, will front the property’s eastern edge. In addition to the San Pedro Creek improvement project, the federal courthouse is expected to be adjacent to new developments immediately north, where the city and county have solicited Requests for Qualifications from developers on the two city blocks between Santa Rosa Avenue and Flores Street.

Looking from Nueva, the structure rises. The north wing, at two stories, is aligned with a raised porch-type plaza with an open trellis over the porch and green scape. The south wing is five stories.

The third floor will have three courtrooms–two magistrate and one district, Benjamin said. The fifth floor will have five district courts. There is an option to add two additional courtrooms for a total of 10. However, the project is budgeted for eight courtrooms, and for the time-being the offices of the Spears Judicial Training Center (presently in a detached building beside the Wood Courthouse) will occupy the space of the two additional courtrooms.

Benjamin said the new courthouse will have the judges’ 13 chambers located on one floor in what was described as a collegial arrangement, as opposed to having each chamber beside each courtroom.

“This allows us to have a narrower building. If we had to have courtrooms and chambers, we would have to have a much larger footprint,” Benjamin said.

The building has a rich pallette of both exterior and interior textures and colors. However, the dominant texture is roughback leuders stone.

GSA Contracting Officer Lisa Byrd said the Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc) will assist the design team with cost estimating throughout 2017, and must establish a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP).

“The cost range is between $109.6 million and $119.6 million. The GMP cannot be exceeded,” she said.

Proposals submitted are to have a Construction Contingency Allowance, since the designs are not complete. Technical proposals are limited to 30 single pages or 15 double-sided pages, including the cover letter, but this does not include the CPA certification or the Subcontractor Plan.

“We need to limit the information to that that truly indicates your experience and past performance on similar projects,” Byrd said. “The technical proposal–that’s the most important part of your proposal.”

The evaluation board is looking for contractors with experience with similar projects, as well as with the CMc project delivery method, she said.

Some questions remained unanswered. However, Byrd said all questions should be delivered in writing to her by email and she would respond through a project Amendment on Monday the 26th or Tuesday.

Questions pending included who would pick up the cost in the event an archeological event occurs during excavation, and whether county courthouse projects counted as courthouse experience. Respondents must submit details on at least two similar projects they were involved in constructing.

Ms. Byrd asked to have any additional questions put in writing and submitted to her via e-mail. She will prepare an amendment to the solicitation that will include the minutes, the sign-in sheets and the questions and answers from the meeting. She plans to post the amendment to the FedBizOps website by Monday, Sept. 26.



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About the Author:

Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.

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