Major Construction in All Corners: Several
Segments Fueling Fresno's Growth
Construction Group will complete a six-story, 340,000-sq.-ft.
trauma and burn center in Fresno this month at a cost
of $91.2 million. RTKL Associates of Chicago served
as the lead architect.
Fresno is stretching its limbs. With a population surging
to 441,900 from 354,000 in 1990, California's sixth-largest
city may be shedding its farmtown image.
The new Fresno is emerging in the form of major construction
in all quarters, from the completion of the first high-rise
downtown in four decades to the continued swell of residential
and commercial growth now threatening to spill beyond the
town's geographical limits.
Low interest rates and the refinancing boom continue to drive
a market already reaping the rewards of a lower cost of living
than the Bay Area or Southern California. Area Realtors estimate
25 percent of new residential construction serves "equity
refugees" fleeing the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles.
Unemployment in Fresno does remain high-cresting at 15 percent
in months when farming isn't in full swing-but job growth
in the construction industry never faltered, even when recession
was the word.
"I've never seen the kind of huge projects that we've
had all happening at the same time in the 32 years I've been
here," said Dave Archer, president of Fresno general
contracting firm Target Constructors.
Health care is hot
That's especially true in Target's current niche market-health
care construction. Though that company will have churned out
a dozen-and-a-half medical offices by mid-2004, most area
projects dwarf their average $1.5 million price tag.
Take Community Medical Center, for instance. Its six-story,
circular 340,000-sq.-ft. trauma and burn center, scheduled
for completion this month, will cost $91.2 million. The Clark
Construction Group began work on the trauma stack, the 58-acre
campus' pivotal component, in April. RTKL Associates of Chicago
served as lead architect.
Owner CMC, which is spending a total of $250 million on new
projects and improvements at the campus, including expansion
of the existing hospital building and construction of a parking
garage, plans to launch remodeling work and construction of
a proposed 91,000-sq.-ft. ambulatory care center in early
2005. UC San Francisco is completing a $21 million research
facility on campus, too.
Meanwhile, CMC-North in neighboring Clovis-a city whose population
jumped more than 25 percent in the last 12 years-completed
$27 million in expansion projects in 2003.
The $84 million
final phase of an expansion program at St. Agnes Medical
Center in Fresno began in 2000. It is scheduled for
completion in November. Seals/Biehle General Contractors
of Visalia is constructing the 230,000-sq.-ft. building,
Also adapting to the increasing need for bed space is St.
Agnes Medical Center. A 230,000-sq.-ft. building, the last
phase of an expansion program the company began in 2000, is
scheduled for completion in November. Seals/Biehle General
Contractors of Visalia is wrapping up the $84 million project.
"Institutional construction like this expands with [residential]
and population growth," said project engineer Matt Seals.
"It's been a rapid upward climb since 2000."
Other major health care projects include $31 million worth
of new Kaiser Permanente clinics in Clovis and Selma and North
Fresno's 138,000-sq.-ft., $37 million Fresno Heart Hospital.
Fresno-based Harris Construction Co. was the general contractor
on Fresno Heart, which was completed late last year.
Harris was also tapped for a number of school construction
projects. The firm, which reached the $100 million annual
revenue mark two years ago, did half its business in school
construction last year, according to President Tim Marsh.
"We're lucky the schools came around last year like
they did, but I think it will level off," Marsh said.
"There are other areas, like manufacturing, that have
Harris will be finishing several elementary schools (at a
cost of about $10 million each) this spring in North Fresno
and will serve as construction manager for the Clovis Education
Center slated to begin in early 2005. It's a $114 million
project that includes a 270,000-sq.-ft., two-story academic
building, three gymnasiums and a state-of-the-art concert
hall and black-box theater designed by project architect Edwin
S. Darden and Associates of Fresno.
Residential activity on the rise in
Schools also are following residential growth. Last year,
Clovis, with a population of about 76,000, pulled more new-home
permits than its much larger neighbor to the south, Fresno.
In Clovis, residential building permits climbed to 1,672 last
year, up from 1,319 in 2002. Fresno posted 1, 514 residential
permits last year.
"Percentage-wise, Clovis is the hottest market,"
said Jeff Harris, president and CEO of the Building Industry
Association of the San Joaquin Valley. "Residential construction
is going at a breakneck pace and other types of construction
are having to keep up."
Harris will complete a $20 million water treatment plant
in Clovis in July to serve the burgeoning population.
Homebuilders such as Wathen-Castanos, Granville Homes, Wilson
Homes and McCaffrey Developments all have subdivisions under
way in the area, with plans to break ground on more this year.
"North Fresno and southeast Fresno will be strong this
year, but the preferred location is certainly Clovis,"
said Kevin Castanos, president of Fresno's Wathen-Castanos.
His company started about 400 units in the area last year,
a 30-percent growth over 2002.
Where residential construction is testing the sphere of influence
in North Fresno, retail and office projects have followed.
The Village at Granite Park, a 295,000-sq.-ft. retail and
sports complex in North Fresno, should be complete by this
time next year. The $35 million project will include four
soccer fields and three softball stadiums as well as several
shops and restaurants. Fortune-Ratliff of Fresno is the general
contractor and Alameda-based MBH Architects designed the project.
DeWayne Zinkin Sr. will soon open a $10 million, glass-paned
office complex, called Riverview Professional Offices, near
Fresno Heart Hospital. Construction on the three-story, 65,000-sq.-ft.
project, which will likely contain medical offices, began
A busy Zinkin also completed Riverview Shops, a $15 million
retail project blocks away, in November.
Commercial permits in Fresno grew from 116 in 2002 to 157
last year. The most heralded growth, however, has taken place
in once-abandoned downtown Fresno. The city worked for years
to coax development there and finally garnered serious interest
after a baseball stadium built for a Triple A team-the Fresno
Grizzlies- opened in 2002. And with the recent additions of
two new office buildings and a federal courthouse, as well
as Community Medical Centers' rebirth and the rehabbing of
several structures, downtown is on a roll.
"We're very excited to see the revitalization of downtown
Fresno is happening with over $1 billion in construction completed
or under way and thousands of new jobs," said Dan Fitzpatrick,
executive director of Fresno's Redevelopment Agency. Fitzpatrick
said the spending spree began about three years ago.
In October, Clark Construction finished the 11-story "Tower
at Convention Center Court," the first high-rise to be
erected in Fresno since the 1960s. The $21 million project,
designed by Los Angeles-based Gin Wong Associates, contains
294,000 sq. ft. of office space.
More than 2,500 tons of steel, supplied and erected by Pleasanton-based
Herrick Steel, were used to construct the frame and barrel-vault
roof. The tower represents one of the first uses of glass-fiber-reinforced
concrete downtown, said Jeff Williams, Clark's project manager.
On downtown's western edge, developer Alex S. Palmer &
Co. opened a six-story, $45 million office building in December
for about 1,500 Internal Revenue Service workers. More IRS
employees are housed at the recently remodeled, 12-story Guarantee
Building, a rehab project that cost $30 million.
And the skyline downtown will have a loftier focal point
in July 2005 when the new federal courthouse will overtake
the Fresno County Plaza by 20 ft. as the tallest structure
in the city. The general contractors on the $120 million,
385,000-sq.-ft. facility are Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Dick Corp.
Los Angeles-based Gruen & Associates will serve as executive
Plans for another courthouse, one serving juveniles, are
in jeopardy due to recent changes in law that give the state
jurisdiction over new judicial buildings. The courthouse,
the fourth phase of a $176 million Juvenile Justice Campus
just south of Fresno's city limits, is on hold for now.
Martin Temple, principal for Fresno-based Temple-Andersen-Moore,
said the delay is "an interesting aspect because the
courthouse is the biggest building on the project." Temple's
firm is serving as associate architect. "It was to be
two stories with all the juvenile courts needed now and room
to grow, plus areas for the public defenders and district
attorney's staff," he said.
The $30 million first phase of construction on the Juvenile
Justice Campus got under way in September. Harris Construction
is the general contractor for this infrastructure-oriented
phase which includes construction of a central plant building.
The second phase, which will include a 480-bed housing component
and an institutional core, is expected to begin in May, Temple
said. Phase three will include a sewer plant. The fourth phase-if
it comes to fruition-will be the $35 million courthouse.