Trying to Make Sense of New City Hall’s Increased Building Cost Rate

As you know, the cost to build our new City Hall has gone up by nearly $8 million over the past 8 months. One of the reasons for this cost increase is because of the increased rate per square foot. The City Hall developer has told us last week that the City will need to pay $420 / sqft now, instead of $350 / sqft, that we ‘re told to pay 8 months ago. That is a 20% rate increase.

For the past few days, I’ve spent some good amount of time in trying to understand the reasons behind the cost increase.

Those of you who are familiar with the construction industry, the rate of the construction cost of any building mainly depends on two factors – material cost and the labor cost. For a larger building, the rate does not quite change, the total cost only changes.

I first looked into the recent material cost rate. Based on what we’ve heard about other recent City projects, I thought that the material cost was the main culprit behind the rate hike. For example, the cost rate for the Gateway Park project went up significantly last summer when the City Council approved its construction budget. This was mainly due to the tariff the U.S. imposed on importing steels and aluminum back in March 2018. Because of recently imposed tariff, the market was very volatile in last summer, when we approved the Gateway Park project.

But I was wrong for the City Hall project.  The material cost has largely gone down from last summer to date, by as high as 5% for some materials. I found this by looking at the rates of the main building materials, such as steels, aluminum, etc. This I found from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics data.




That said, during this time frame (July 2018 to March 2019), the labor cost has appeared to go up a bit. This has been reflected by the RS means historical cost index table, which keeps track of the overall construction cost (labor, material etc) over the years. (please see below). According to this chart, the price index has only gone up from 98.1 to 100 index from July 2018 to January 2019. Based on the guidelines presented in the chart below the rate in January 2019 should be $356.77 [= (100 / 98.1) * $350]. This only reflects a 1.9% increase.

It’s true that the City Hall developer had to factor in some interior and exterior features in the cost rate that they incorporated recently, however, it’s difficult to believe that those features amounted to a whopping 20% rate in the construction cost just over a 9 months period.


City to Approve Buisness Recognition Program

At tomorrow night’s meeting, the Council will consider approving the College Park Business of the Year program.

If approved, City Staff will begin accepting applications on May 1st.

The College Park Business of the Year program was discussed during a Worksession on January 22, 2019. The City Council requested to see formal guidelines and the application structure before approving the establishment of the program. The proposed guidelines and application are attached. The program will highlight one business each year that has demonstrated exceptional achievements in one or more of the following areas

  • Growth
  • Community Service
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Legacy.

Staff is recommending that the Business of the Year will be announced in October. The awarded business will be invited to attend a
City Council Meeting in which they will officially be proclaimed the College Park Business of the Year. The awarded business will also receive a plaque and special College Park Business of the Year logo as a demonstration of their achievement and for promotional purposes.
Businesses will only be considered eligible to receive the award if they meet the following threshold requirements:
• Locally-owned independent business
• Has a physical College Park address
• Has been open at least one year at time of nomination
• Is in good standing with the City of College Park

The program would award a $125 plaque to the Business of the Year. The logo used for the plaque will be designed inhouse.



Celebrate Arbor Day this Friday, April 26th

Arbor Day

College Park will be celebrating Arbor Day on Friday, April 26th (National Arbor Day) at 9:30 am at St Andrews Episcopal Church, located at 4512 College Ave.

The City will receive the Tree City USA award for the 30th consecutive year. All are welcome to attend.
Spring is a great time to plant trees. If you would like a tree planted in the right-of way in front of your home please contact Brenda Alexander to discuss options, 240-487-3595 or balexander@collegeparkmd.gov.
Are you thinking of adding a tree to your property this Spring? The City has a program to reimburse the cost (up to $150.00) of approved trees on private property, it’s called the Tree Canopy Enhancement Program (TCEP). Click here for more information and application.
[City of College Park]

City to Buy First Hybrid Bus for Transporting Seniors and Students

At next week’s meeting, the Council will consider awarding a contract in the amount of $86,057.00 to Apple Ford for the purchase of one 2019 E450 Ford XL Hybrid 21 Passenger Bus package to replace the 2003 vehicle as planned.

The new bus will replace the old bus (Bus #122), which currently has 114,699 miles traveled, been in service for 16 years and has extensive maintenance issues occurring with the body and chassis portion of the bus.

The expected useful life of the bus is approximately 10 years.

The bus is the largest bus in the fleet and is utilized most frequently by the Department of Youth, Family and Seniors Services for a variety of transportation needs, including seniors transportation and transporting Lakeland STARs students to the UMD campus an average of 11 times a semester. This bus does require a CDL license.

Last month, the Council was considering to buy a regular bus by awarding a contract at $73,910.00 to American Bus Sales Service for the purchase of one 21 Passenger Bus. Thanks to north College Park resident Matt Dernoga, who asked the Council to look into a hybrid bus option.


Green Housekeeping Workshop

Learn how to keep your household clean, green and healthy! Did you know that some cleaning products can be as bad for your health as smoking? Join us for a workshop highlighting best practices for greening your cleaning routine. Participants will learn easy and affordable ways to maintain healthy households. Light refreshments will be served. Free parking. For more information to or RSVP, contact Todd Larson at toddlarson_99@yahoo.com. Sponsored by the City’s Committee for a Better Environment.

[City of College Park]


Spring Cleanup Month at DPW – Document Shredding this Saturday, 4/20!

Spring Cleanup Month continues at the City’s Department of Public Works!

This Saturday, April 20 there will be on-site document shredding services from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Bring your old tax records, medical paperwork, and any other confidential information to be shredded while you wait. All paper will be recycled. You must be a resident of the City of College Park and bring proof of residency to participate.

For more information about our Spring Cleanup Month events, visit here

[City of College Park]


City Hall Project Cost Rises by $8 million in 8 Months

The estimated project cost of the City Hall has gone up from $12.9 million in  July 2018 to $20.6 million in April 2019. The total project cost is now estimated at $47.6 million, with the UMD paying the rest ($27 million).

At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, the City Hall project team gave those numbers.

Please note that the new estimated figure ($20.6 million) does not include the $1.6 million the city spent to acquire the Route 1 properties, $500, 000 for the previous studies, and $7.48 million for the debt services cost (to borrow $12 million).

With these numbers, City Hall’s overall project cost will top $30 million.


2011 – 2019

See how City Hall’s project cost increased over the years

The architect and the design team attributed the increased cost to the rise in labor and material cost. The team now estimates the construction cost rate at $420 per-square-foot, compared to $320 per-square-foot 8 months ago. The increased estimate is also partly due to increased space (from 30,000 sq ft to 33,000 sq ft) of the building and some additional interior and exterior design elements the architect added to the latest design. (I’m still looking into these factors).

At the meeting, Scott Vieth from Design Collective (the architect) gave a brief overview of the 2018 project design and square footage and then showed the more detailed March 2019 schematic design. This update included perspective views of the building, the site plan and plaza, floor plans, and the square footage for the different occupants (City, University, and retail). Katie Hearn, the project manager from Redgate, and Matt Weirich from Davis Construction discussed the project budget and the cost estimate. City Staff discussed the funding sources for the City portion of the project. The presentation from this week’s meeting on City Hall can be found here on the City’s website.

The City Council plans to vote on what direction to take with the project at its next Council meeting on April 23.


Bike to Work Day is Around the Corner. Register Today!

If you haven’t already registered, Bike to Work Day is May 17! The City will once again host our Pit Stop in front of City Hall from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m.

Register for free at biketoworkmetrodc.org

f you’re one of the 20,000 to register, you can get a free t-shirt.

[City of College Park]


City’s Urban Forest is in Danger, But there is a Hope

Trees in a College Park park

The urban forest in College Park is under threat due to new construction and individual tree removal, the city’s tree canopy has been steadily declining since 2009 – a report has concluded.

At tomorrow’s Council meeting, the City Council will hear a presentation about the City-wide Tree Canopy Assessment. The City secured a consultant SavATree LLC to perform the assessment and to prepare the report. The tree canopy was assessed utilizing a combination of satellite imagery and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data.

The report also concludes that preserving the existing tree canopy is critical. Recent losses of the tree canopy, particularly on private land, highlight some of the threats to the city’s overall tree canopy.

While ordinances can help to prevent tree removal, it is difficult to legislate tree care and tree planning on private land, necessitating other approaches.

There is however hope. Residents hold the key. A clear majority of the city’s tree canopy is on residential land or on rights-of-way in residential areas. How residents value the trees in and around their property may very well be the determining factor in how the city’s tree canopy changes over the coming decade. If residents fail to care for their trees and plant new ones to replace those that have been lost the city’s urban tree canopy will continue to decline.

An analysis of the city’s tree canopy based on land cover data derived from circa 2018 data found that 1341 acres of the city is covered by tree canopy (termed Existing Tree Canopy). This represents 38% of all of the land within the City. An additional 43% (1545 acres) of the city’s land area contains space to accommodate tree canopy (termed Possible Tree Canopy). Within the Possible category, 28% (1009 acres) of total land area was classified as Vegetated Possible and another 15% (536 acres) as Impervious Possible. Establishing tree canopy on areas classified as Impervious Possible will have a greater impact on water quality and
summer temperatures while planting on Vegetated Possible (grass/shrub), will generally be easier. 19% (742 acres) of the city is generally not suitable for establishing new tree canopy (buildings and roads).

Additionally, the report encourages to continue mapping, monitoring, and inventorying.

This project was able to provide insights into changes to the city’s tree canopy over the past decade The Council will have a few options to consider:
(a) Support funding requests for tree planting on public and private lands
(b) Consider a new ordinance to address tree removals on private property
(c) Support tree planting in the public right-of-way to increase tree canopy where there is a distinct potential planting space

You can see the full report in our council agenda packet here: http://bit.ly/2GonV8N (page 4)


Tornado Watch, Until 3 a.m. Tonight

This evening, the National Weather Service issued the tornado watch, which runs until 3 a.m. on April 15.

According to the Watch (please see below), 13 Maryland counties, plus the city of Baltimore, have been asked to watch the tornado until early Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Showers and scattered thunderstorms are expected tonight into tomorrow that could generate damaging wind gusts and an isolated tornado. Heavy rain in thunderstorms may lead to isolated instances of flooding, the weather service says.

Tornado Watch, by the National Weather Service


Gov. Larry Hogan said: “I am asking all Marylanders to pay close attention to the updated weather forecasts for this evening and overnight.  The National Weather Service is predicting severe storms, high wind gusts, and the potential for isolated tornadoes across the state. Residents should take every possible precaution, and stay indoors away from windows during thunderstorms. It is especially critical to make sure that emergency alerts are turned on in your mobile device settings.”



Good Neighbor Day 2019 – In Pictures


GND is Tomorrow – You Can Join us at Hollywood Shopping Center

The 8th Annual Good Neighbor Day is TOMORROW! The event is on rain or shine.

  • You can join us directly near the MoM’s at the Hollywood Shopping Plaza (9827 Rhode Island Ave). There will be volunteers to register you.
  • Please arrive at 8:30 am for check-in. The projects are scheduled until 12:00 pm
  • Bring a filled reusable water bottle to the event
  • If you have a Good Neighbor Day T-shirt, wear it! (It’s the same design every year)
  • All tools and supplies will be provided
  • We’ll clean up the community garden and some of the neighborhood streets
  • Share your service moments with us by using #GoodNeighborDay2019

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow!


Tonight’s NCPCA Meeting: 21st Delegation, Chick-fil-A Plan & City Budget

NCPCA – It’s Your Neighborhood Association

Today is the second Thursday of the month and hence the day when the North College Park Community Association (NCPCA) hosts its monthly meeting.

The meeting will start with an update from the MD 21st Delegation. Sen. Jim Rosapepe and Delegates of the Maryland’s 21stDelegation will be visiting with us tonight to present news about this year’s legislative session.

The members will discuss the NCPCA letter to Sen. Rosapepe and the City’s response to Sen. Rosapepe will be reviewed.  Questions and discussion with members of the 21st Delegation will follow.

Members will also discuss a proposal for a large restaurant with drive-in lanes near the College Park Veterans Memorial at US 1 and MD 193 Greenbelt Road will be reviewed.  Motion for NCPCA resolution regarding this project is likely afterward questions and answers.

NCPCA priorities were sent to Mayor & Council, and discussions are now underway.  Councilmembers Kabir and Mitchell are hosting a Budget Town Hall Meeting at Davis Hall, tomorrow, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.  Tonight would be an ideal time for recap and clarification of the members’ concerns.

As always, the meeting will take place at Davis Hall, at 7:30pm.


Lidl to Open Soon – Traffic Advisory this Weekend

College Park’s brand new grocery store Lidl is set to open soon – as early as in late May / early June. According to the latest announcement, the store was set to open this spring. I’ll keep you posted once we get a confirmation.

The 36,185 Square Feet store has been under construction starting early this year on the site previously occupied by Clarion Inn on Route 1 (near MD 193).

As part of the construction, this Friday, April 12 beginning at 9:00 a.m., the right-hand northbound lane of Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) by the Lidl construction site will be closed. Weather and progress permitting, all traffic lanes will reopen at 5:00 AM Monday, April 15, 2019. Please see below the letter for details.

A local artist was chosen to create a unique feature on the south-western corner of the lot.

LiDL opened its first store in Germany in 1973 and in the U.S. in 2017. The store operates out of the U.S. in Arlington, Virginia, and plans to expand to Long Island and New York City. Lidl’s other stores in the greater D.C. area are in Virginia: Woodbridge, Fredericksburg and Manassa, and in Ashburn. The store expects to offer groceries at affordable prices, similar at prices offered by Aldi.


Understanding New Zoning Laws

Join the Prince George’s County Council and the Prince George’s County Planning Department Today, April 9th at 6:30 pm for a Community Educational Forum about Understanding the New Zoning Laws. During the meeting, staff will be available to answer your questions about the new ordinance. The session will take place in the County Administration Building (14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772) in Room 2027.

(Prince George’s County Government)

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