SHS Project Firm Chosen To Manage Community Center Development

The Public Building and Site Commission (PBSC), which is representing the town in overseeing the new community center development, has selected a familiar firm to handle management as the project begins ramping up.

Chairman Robert Mitchell said the PBSC requested Diversified Project Management (DPM) to provide appropriate support for the new center that will be underwritten by a $10 million grant from General Electric. GE has also provided an additional $5 million to cover the cost of staffing the new facility at $1 million per year for the first five years of operation.

Mr Mitchell told The Bee following the July 24 PBSC meeting that the commission’s request to retain DPM is moving through the approval process at the municipal level.

At the same time, he said the Connecticut-based firm is beginning to compile information that will help guide a Community Center Advisory Committee to the point where a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) can be issued for firms interested in bidding to handle architectural duties and construction management.

“Once we get those responses to the RFQ, we’ll handle it in a similar fashion as we used for Sandy Hook School; we’ll review all submissions and create a short list of at least four firms we believe are best qualified to handle the job,” Mr Mitchell said.

At that point, those firms will be invited to submit proposals for consideration with one eventually winning the architect’s contract and another the job of construction management, he said.

“That selection will be made in concert with the advisory committee,” Mr Mitchell said, adding that he expects the overall development process to run as smoothly as the Sandy Hook School process has been going up to now.

“Since the state and the Board of Education are not part of the community center process, it will naturally mean the process will move more quickly,” he said.

The PBSC chairman said that since the grant for the development has already been made public, similar to the grant to rebuild Sandy Hook School, it will be easier for the town to qualify an architect and construction firm based on what they can bring to the table within the $10 million budget parameter.

“We’ll also follow the process we used with the school by hiring the design team and construction manager together on day one,” he said. “That will save a lot of time. And because we know the project is funded by the $10 million grant, we won’t get bids that are driven by a [low budget threshold]. We’ll pick the most qualified firms and ask them what they can deliver for the budget.”

He said following that criteria for the Sandy Hook School project yielded a series of bids that were “amazingly close.”

“Usually you have bids with a huge spread, but with Sandy Hook, they were all within five percent, which almost never happens,” he continued. “But I think another factor was that we were very careful defining the scope of work that was expected from the beginning.”

That is the first responsibility DPM will have as they dig into the community center project, Mr Mitchell added.

He said both the school and community center will be handled in a style previously reserved for corporate or commercial developments, versus traditional public school or government funded projects. The PBSC expects to review the RFQs and to select its short list of potential architects and construction firms by August, and to have those firms selected based on their bids by sometime in October.

“Then we’re off and running,” he said.

While preliminary hopes are to open the community center around the same time as the new school — in September of 2016 — Mr Mitchell believes the final stages of the community center may not be ready for occupancy until later that fall.

The community center advisory panel is planning a meeting June 30 to review and possibly endorse a draft project description for planned facility.

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