Downtown façade project enters new phase
By Trudy Balcom
RAWLINS — Quietly, the $1.6 million downtown façade project has been moving forward. The project involves a grant-funded upgrade to the façades, or fronts, of 36 downtown building that are participating in the project.
The façade project is complex, but the end goals are simple — to dramatically improve the appearance of Rawlins’ downtown to attract economic development, as well as for aesthetic purposes.
Heading up the project is Rawlins Main Street Executive Director Pam Thayer. It also involves several community partners including the City of Rawlins, local downtown property owners and project architect Myers-Anderson PLC, of Evanston.
The project, which kicked off in February, requires many procedural and legal steps, which has made getting to the exciting part — the actual construction — slower than Thayer anticipated.
“It’s taking a long time, but the timing now is excellent,” Thayer said of the project. She noted that because of the downturn in the state’s economy, she expects that it will be easier and more cost-effective to get contractors to work on the buildings. Contractors, she said, will be “hungry.”
Since spring, project architects have completed a redesign for the façade and a scope-of-work evaluation for each of the 36 participating properties. That meant visiting each site (usually several times), measuring, meeting with the building owners and coming up with a complete list of work for the project that fits within the owner’s budget.
Building owners must provide 10 percent matching funds for the project costs, and state and federal grants administered by DDA-Main Street will pay 90 percent, up to $80,000.
Thayer said the scope of work documents for each of the 36 buildings was completed in June.
Construction Manager at-Risk
The project moved significantly closer to the exciting part last week, when Thayer walked the downtown with representatives of Bateman-Hall a general contracting firm out of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Bateman-Hall was selected to act as the construction management firm to coordinate the hiring and work of the contractors for the 36 separate projects.
Thayer said that Bateman-Hall was selected after the City of Rawlins issued a request for qualifications for the façade project earlier this summer.
The firm will not be acting in the capacity of general contractor, however.
Instead, it will serve as construction manager at-risk (CMAR). What this means is that Bateman-Hall will develop a guaranteed maximum price for each building’s construction project and the will manage all of the individual contractors — such as masons, window and door installers, awning and sign installers — for all 36 buildings.
It also means that if projects should come in over-budget, owners and DDA-Main Street’s façade project will be protected from excessive unanticipated costs.
Thayer said that project’s architect, Jerry Myers of Myers-Anderson, suggested structuring it with a CMAR.
“There’s more flexibility in the process and more working together,” he said. Myers also said that CMAR also allows for contractors and subcontractors to be hired based upon their qualifications rather than just the lowest bid.
Obviously, running numerous separate construction projects at the same time could be a nightmare. But while some buildings are getting a complete facelift, others are not.
“Some of these buildings are just getting a little TLC to make them more inviting,” Thayer said.
Using a construction manager instead of a general contractor also means that bids can be let by trade — concrete work, electrical, masonry — instead of bidding out the whole project.
“We can have six different trades working on different buildings downtown. There is an efficiency to it,” Thayer said.
Thayer is pleased with how Bateman-Hall is getting the construction projects off the ground.
“They really showed up ready to go,” she said, noting that they are working with the city to get a list of approved contractors and tradesmen.
This week, Bateman-Hall will solicit bids for the work of nine different trades within the next two weeks; bids will be opened on Aug. 30.
Thayer and Myers said that some construction projects will get underway in early fall.
The entire project will be completed at the end of the construction season next year, Thayer said.
The façade project is funded by two federal Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block grant (CDBG) grants of $250,000 each, and a state Business Ready Communities Downtown Development grant from the state for $1 million.
In exchange for the grant funding assistance, downtown property owners must sign over an easement agreement for their façade to the Rawlins DDA-Main Street. The agreement will give DDA-Main Street control over the façade for eight years.