There has been good news and not-so-great news for Makers Mill (formerly G.A.L.A.) this month. The good news is that after nearly two years of working with architects, engineers, construction managers, and town officials, Makers Mill received a signed building permit to move forward with Phase 1 renovations at 23 Bay St., which will result in a fully code-compliant facility ready for programming. This was the final permitting hurdle to overcome. While this is indeed a reason to celebrate, it is not necessarily a green light for the ground breaking. Despite all the best efforts in advanced value engineering and cost estimating, the construction bids for the project came back higher than expected, almost $400,000, or approximately 45%, higher in fact.
For those in the construction or real estate fields, this news will come as no surprise. The construction market is seeing unprecedented price escalation brought on by a broken supply chain and a construction labor force shortage. This resulted in the project bids coming in higher than anticipated resulting in a gap of almost $390,000 for construction and administrative costs.
One might be quick to propose the project scale back or hold off until the market settles down. It’s not that easy, or simple. The scope of work has already been scaled back to only include what’s necessary to receive a certificate of occupancy. No real bells and whistles, in other words, except for the solar PV system which is being paid for with funds restricted for that specific use.
Nor can the project afford to wait as existing grant funds will begin to expire. Additionally, there is a finite window of time allotted between the public bidding announcement and when contracts need to be signed with contractors. If that timeline is not met, the project must be re-bid, which could extend the completion of the project into the fall heating season as well as potentially be even more costly as the market continues to evolve. There is also no guarantee that the project would have interest from the same bidders and may potentially drive those current successful bidders away from responding for the second bid opening.
Needless to say, the stakes are high for Makers Mill right now. But if we have learned anything from this small but mighty nonprofit, it is that they are not deterred in the face of a challenge. Quite the contrary, they tend to galvanize. Without skipping a beat, the organization submitted an amendment to the Community Development Block Grant program requesting additional funds to cover the budget gap. They have also been reaching out to current donors to be upfront about the predicament and see if any of these donors have the capacity to dig a little deeper to ensure this project stays on track.
No one could have foreseen the current economic climate when Makers Mill embarked on this project in the fall of 2017. While the pandemic has presented its share of challenges, it also intensified the need for what the Makerspace & Vocation Hub will offer upon completion: a community resource for workforce development, job growth and retention, and career pathway support, in the wake of one of the most turbulent economic years of the last century.
“Well, the reality of the situation right now is that we cannot afford to delay, nor can we afford to begin. That being said, we have overcome many hurdles along the way to get this far, every time a challenge like this presents itself, the community rises to the occasion and we find a way,” reflects Makers Mill Director, Josh Arnold. “There is no reason to think it will be any different in the face of this challenge. We are sharpening our pencils, making phone calls to potential donors, getting creative, and doing everything we can to make sure we keep this project on track. The community deserves nothing less.”
To learn more, support the effort to overcome this renovation budget gap, or otherwise learn how to be involved contact Josh or Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-569-1500.