Estimated labor cost overruns that threatened to delay a $9 million student housing project at Niagara University have been resolved, and construction will begin next week, labor leaders said Wednesday.
"All the unions are on board," said Clyde J. Johnston Jr., president of the Niagara County Building Trades Council. "The construction manager has been soliciting bids, and all the bids came in within budget."
"We're shooting for $9 million," said Jeff Stahlman, estimator for John Ferraina Construction of Niagara Falls, the manager for 20 contractors involved in the project.
Construction will begin next week, he said.
The apartment-style housing complex for nearly 200 students is scheduled to open in August, said university spokesman Linus Ormsby. The campus currently has housing for 1,200 students.
Several union leaders said in July they would try to work with the university to keep the project within the budget. A key concession was to knock $5 off their average hourly wage of $55.
Laborers Local 91 business manager Michael Quarsini was out of town and could not be reached to comment, but Johnston said the laborers were also on board.
The university's president, the Rev. Joseph Levesque, was scheduled to hold a news conference today to announce that the project is on track.
Unlike dormitories, the new housing will include six two-story apartment buildings to be constructed on a 7 1/2 -acre parcel on the southeast part of the campus, next to Dwyer Arena. A second phase to construct three more buildings to house an additional 120 students is several years away, Ormsby said.
"Housing attracts students," university official Richard Hopkins said in a recent interview. "Updating student housing is part of our competitiveness and quality of life. It will provide a degree of privacy the old dorm-style housing doesn't."
The apartment project is the second major construction project on the campus in less than a year. A $11 million renovation of St. Vincent's Hall, which began in January, was completed last month, Ormsby said. The top floor of the four-story building, called the crown jewel of the new "Vinnie's," has the design of a grand hotel lobby with a spectacular view of the Niagara River gorge, he said. The floor is used as a learning center for the university's Institute for Travel, Hotel and Restaurant Administration.
Earlier this year, the university asked the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency for help in financing both the restoration and the housing projects. As an educational, nonprofit institution, the university didn't need the customary IDA property and sales tax exemptions, but the county agency agreed to help broker the bonds to pay for the projects.