Stalled HOK Project Gets a Second Wind

July 21, 2011

By Tony Illia

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Headquarters in Riverdale, Maryland
Photo courtesy HOK

Work recently resumed on the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Headquarters in Riverdale, Maryland. Completion is slated for July 2012. slide show


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By this time next summer, the 800 employees currently working in the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s dreary, outdated headquarters will be moving into a bright and modern new home by HOK. It’s a long-anticipated move that some thought may never happen. 

Construction of the $66.2 million NOAA facility in Riverdale, Maryland resumed in April after work was halted in 2009. The 268,762-square-foot building, on 10 acres, is part of the University of Maryland’s new 130-acre M-Square research park.  

Developer Opus East broke ground on the NOAA building in 2007, but trouble soon erupted over financing. The developer was supposed to pay for the shell, with the client, the General Services Administration, paying for the interior. But questions arose over exactly who should pay for what, and Opus East ended up halting construction and suing the GSA over $37 million in disputed change orders and payments. The lawsuit was filed in May 2009.

That same year, Opus East filed for bankruptcy, leaving the project unfinished. The building’s shell and interior were 90 percent and 50 percent complete, respectively. Lead lender Bank of America eventually took over the building, naming Douglas Wilson Companies as receiver.

The Opus East lawsuit was later dismissed, and the bank, now the developer/owner, inked a new lease and construction deal earlier this year. Skanska USA was hired to finish construction. (Opus East had previously acted its own design-build contractor, with HOK as architect). Under a new contract, HOK returned as the project’s lead design and interior architect; most of the original subcontractors have returned, too.

The project will now finish in July 2012. The building, designed to achieve LEED-Silver certification, is envisioned as a series “curving wings that intersect in the central atrium,” says HOK project architect Roger Schwabacher, AIA.

“It’s a shame that this project got so far along before being delayed for two and half years,” Schwabacher adds. “Gladly, construction is in full force again. I have been working on this project since 2004, and I really want to see this building done.”

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