The Most Expensive Building in the State of Texas?

TCC’s Downtown Campus

From the FW Weekly:

To date, the district has spent $100.6 million on construction of the two buildings with a combined gross area of about 132,000 square feet, according to documents released by the district to Fort Worth Weekly under an open records request. Completing them will cost an additional $103 million, according to the documents.

(There are two smaller buildings on the bluff site with a total of 15,700 square feet, that Vice Chancellor David Wells told the board could also be completed, but no cost has yet been associated with them. The only announced cost estimates are for the two larger buildings.)

About $62 million has gone to the project’s construction manager, Austin/Con-Real, which reported to the board in May 2007 that the cost of the two bluff buildings at that time would be $40.7 million. A year later, the projected costs had risen to $170 million. By February 2009, it was $203 million.

“That’s a $33 million, 20 percent increase in only eight months, with no explanation. … TCC’s abysmal record in construction cost control has only gotten worse.” said Arlington tax watchdog Bob Mhoon, a retired naval officer and former adjunct professor at TCC. He’s been the bane of the TCC administration for his relentless requests for public documents – especially those pertaining to the downtown campus, which he has called a massive waste of taxpayer dollars that should be going to scholarships for students rather than to build a monument to the chancellor and the board.

Even board members can’t get an explanation for the zooming costs. Trustee Joe Hudson, elected last year after campaigning to lower tuition costs, rein in spending, and stop the downtown project, said he can’t get answers from the chancellor  other than vague references to increased construction costs.  Calls to de la Garza seeking comment for this story were not returned.

Hudson said that the true costs are even higher than what has been reported to the board. The usable footage of the two buildings is only about 100,000 square feet, he said, bringing the unit costs “a lot closer to $2,000 a square foot.” Hudson, trustee Robyn Winnett, and board vice president Bobby McGee have all argued for the bluff site to be mothballed and sold as is, but the crew is one vote shy of a majority.

Even Fort Worth Star-Telegrambusiness writer Mitch Schnurman, in a recent column endorsing the completion of the two buildings with plaza and tunnel, wrote that “the square foot costs … are arguably the highest for any building in Texas,” although he didn’t report the actual numbers.

Go read the whole thing, it’s your tax dollars at work.  Really, somebody needs to go to jail over this fiasco, I’d start with the Chancellor.

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