A $2M relief for Jones Library project in Amherst

  • An artist’s conception shows a renovated and expanded Jones Library as seen from next to the Amherst History Museum. FINEGOLD ALEXANDER ARCHITECTS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2023 2:22:38 PM

AMHERST — Estimates for the hard costs of construction for the expansion and renovation of the Jones Library have dropped by about $2 million since last fall, ensuring the project is in line to not exceed the overall budget and that there has been some reduction in inflationary pressures.

Officials with Colliers Project Leaders informed the Jones Library Building Committee Thursday that the latest estimates show the costs of the building and landscaping to be at $34.25 million, or $2.06 million below the $36.25 million hard costs from last September.

The overall budget remains at $46.14 million.

“That shows we’re good on target,” said Timothy Alix, a senior project manager for Colliers. “We can hold tight on $46.1 million and continue to move forward.”

“We’re holding our overall budget for now, but it’s much better news than our cost estimates the last time,” said Will Fernandez, project manager for Colliers.

With the cost estimates, and projected total costs potentially being cut to $43.95 million, with $3 million currently set aside for contingency, the committee voted unanimously to enter the construction document phase that will be handled by Finegold Alexander Architects. The committee authorized Town Manager Paul Bockelman, also a member of the committee, to meet with Finegold Alexander representatives about this work.

The construction documents will be used by contractors to bid on the project later this year or in early 2024.

The project continues to call for expanding the building from 48,000 square feet to 63,000 square feet, with upgrades to the original L-shaped 1928 building and removing portions of the early 1990s addition that added an atrium. The renovated building, with new areas such as a teen room and a place to display the Civil War plaques, will also be net zero energy.

Committee Chairman Austin Sarat, who is president of the library trustees, said not only are the cost estimates providing relief, but so is the success of fundraising efforts.

In fact, Kent W. Faerber, who co-chairs the capital campaign, noted he was pleased to see the stabilization of the estimates. “Based on this current cost estimate, we have secured over 84% of the funds needed to renovate and expand the Jones Library,” Faerber said.

Project funding remains a $13.8 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and $15.8 million authorized by the Town Council in April 2021. In addition, the Jones Library Capital Campaign has secured just over $7.5 million in government and private funding commitments as of June 1.

Cost estimates are based on a cost-reconciliation process that averages figures provided by Fennessy Consulting Services, which was hired by Finegold Alexander, and Rider Levett Bucknall, or RLB, which was hired by the town. “Obviously this is a snapshot in time,” Fernandez said.

Both the reduced pressures from inflation, and a series of value engineering work undertaken by the architects and approved by the building committee, likely have helped to cut the costs. The committee agreed to trim $2.2 million by using different finishes on the exterior and making a series of adjustments on the inside.

In addition to those changes, as the project gets closer to going out to bid, Alix said there will not be much movement in cost projections. “The more we have for them to estimate, the better the numbers are going to be,” Alix said.

The remaining unknown is what the bid environment will be like, Alix said. Following the months of work on construction documents, the bid phase will reveal the actual costs, likely around December, with actual construction to begin in February 2024.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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