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The Excitement is Building

Written by John Zoerner, Vice President, Development and Construction Services

Ford City Mall Interior Rendering
Rendering of Ford City Mall located in Chicago

Get it? “Building…” in the headline of an article written by a construction guy. See what I did there? Now you can see why my kids think I’m so funny.

While the headline might be corny, the reality is that we are working at a very exciting, rapid-fire pace lately. Our Construction and Development Services team has been busier than we have been in many years. We have significant redevelopment or remodeling projects at Deerbrook Mall, Ford City Mall and 600 North Michigan Avenue. We are retenanting anchors and junior anchors at Rice Lake Square and Village Square of Northbrook.

On top of all of these extremely time-consuming projects, we are also helping our leasing and management teams with multiple smaller buildouts, façade renovations, roof replacements, water infiltration repairs, pricing new deals, negotiating leases and a variety of other small projects.

Does any of this sound familiar? It looks and feels a lot like pre-recession activity, doesn’t it? In fact, by the end of 2015 annual commercial construction spending exceeded the pre-recession levels. Unemployment in the construction sector has fallen from its recession level of 20% to its current level of approximately 6%.

While the men and women in the field are getting a little help from their brothers and sisters in the trades, the folks pushing the pencils and crushing the keyboards seem to be experiencing something a little different. Unemployment in the architecture and engineering fields is down. However, that doesn’t mean that the consultants have re-hired candidates previously working in architecture and engineering. Many of those candidates chose to leave the profession for greener pastures, and many architectural and engineering firms now find themselves struggling to fill positions with qualified candidates who they can actually afford. So even though employment in the trades has increased overall over the last ten years, employment in the architecture and engineering fields has actually decreased by over 20%. In the Chicago area alone, nearly 17,000 architectural and engineering positions have been eliminated.

What that means for us as construction managers is while getting a project started has always been the hardest part, it’s become even more difficult recently. Much of the excitement that we used to experience when a project crossed the finish line is now experienced when a project finally crosses the starting line instead.

John Zoerner | Vice President, Development and Construction Services
Mid-America Asset Management, Inc.
One Parkview Plaza, 9th Floor | Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
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