Work is starting this week on the new South San Francisco Civic Center, as crews will begin clearing the way for development of the Parks and Recreation building, library and City Council chambers — all at what may end up being a cheaper price than expected because of the softening construction market.

Councilmembers agreed in November to hire Swinerton Builders to construct the 83,000-square-foot facility planned at El Camino Real and Chestnut Avenue, and the company will begin removing trees and vegetation at the site plus putting up construction fencing.

With hopes that health conditions will allow, officials are planning to host a formal groundbreaking ceremony next month to celebrate the anticipated two-year construction process on the project planned to cost about $101 million.

Work beginning on the project marks the second phase of construction at the new civic center campus, following the nearby police station development which is expected to be completed in fall 2021.

Officials awarded the phase two contract to Swinerton Builders last month, after the company submitted the lowest bid out of six qualified applicants. Officials preferred the $75 million base bid from Swinerton, and the overall budget includes $10 million in contingencies, plus an additional $5.7 million in additions to the playground, plus nearly $10 million in permitting and outfitting costs. The designer is SmithGroup.

Even with the additional recreational features included in the budget, officials said the bids received for the project were significantly less than the $105 million initially anticipated. Officials said the low bids were likely due to a market softening in the public construction industry caused by COVID-19.

“Prices have fallen pretty precipitously over the last few months,” said Jacob Gilchrist, who oversees capital projects for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department in the meeting last month.

A majority of the financing for the projects will come from $74 million in bond proceeds, plus about $20 million in revenue from Measure W, the half-cent sales tax hike approved by voters in 2015. Various funds will contribute about $2 million, and officials are hopeful to raise an additional $5.7 million in contributions to round out the budget.

Swinerton is also building the police station, and the project budget is about $56 million.

Anticipating work beginning on the second phase of construction, officials warned heavy equipment will be visiting the site — causing some traffic and parking congestion.

Beyond the three-story building featuring the new Library, Parks and Recreation center and City Council chambers, the development spanning 6.5 acres will also feature a 1.3-acre park, plus completion of the Centennial Trail.

“It is really going to be a jewel in our city, I can’t wait to see it,” Vice Mayor Mark Nagales said during the November meeting.

Regarding other development issues in South San Francisco, officials are accepting applications to buy one of the 19 new affordable condominiums built in the new development at 200 Linden Ave.

The 15 one-bedroom units estimated to cost about $252,000 are reserved for those making a maximum of 80% of the area median income, which is roughly $97,000 annually for a single person. The four two-bedroom units projected to cost about $610,000 are reserved for those making a maximum of 120% of the area median income, which is roughly $171,000 annually for a family of four.

The deadline to apply is Thursday, Dec. 31. A preference will be granted to those who live and work in South San Francisco. Visit myhomegateway.org/south-san-francisco--200-linden-ave.html for more information about the units.

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