SAN ANTONIO – Before it can build the new terminal at San Antonio International Airport, the city’s preferred contractor will need to fly in first.
Hensel Phelps has been tapped for an up-to $1 billion construction management contract for the airport’s Terminal Development Program. The Colorado-based company is one of the largest aviation construction contractors in the country. It would be responsible for overseeing the continued planning and eventual construction of the airport’s new 17-gate terminal and related upgrades, such as a ground transportation center and the expansion of elevated roadways.
The rest of the Terminal Development Program’s $1.4 billion price tag is wrapped up in other “enabling” construction projects at the airport, like building demolition, and the costs of other professional services, such as architects.
City officials say money for contingencies and inflation has been built into the budget.
Hensel Phelps was a nine-member evaluation committee’s top choice to oversee the project, but the City Council is expected to vote Dec. 12 on whether to make it official.
Though one councilman has already said he plans to vote against it, other members appeared receptive to Hensel Phelps’ selection during a briefing Wednesday afternoon and eager for the work to begin.
“This is probably the most significant milestone in the sense that we are actually now contracting the work,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
The city hopes construction will begin in late 2024 and be finished midway through 2028.
Under the “construction manager at-risk” method the city is using, Hensel Phelps would be capped at the $1 billion budget and will have to work with the architect to control building costs.
If approved, the company will get a little under 13% of the contract value, while the other 87% is for subcontracted work the company still has to put out for bid in 20 to 25 “packages.”
Planting a metaphorical “buy local” flag, District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez said he would vote against Hensel Phelps’ appointment as construction manager.
“Nobody can hold their head up high on this city council and walk out of this building and say, ‘We support local business’ when an important vote like this, you know, is glossed over as ‘Well, we support local business, but just not today,’” said Pelaez, who is widely believed to be eyeing a mayoral run in 2025.
Two other construction companies put forward bids — Austin Commercial out of Dallas and Sundt PCL, which has a San Antonio office.
All three were scored and considered over two rounds by an evaluation committee that included city staff, members of the Airport System Development Committee, an airline representative, and an executive from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
While all three construction companies scored similarly during the initial round considering their qualifications, Hensel Phelps outscored the others when it came to its specific proposal for handling the job.
Retired Air Force Gen. Ed Rice was on the committee and told council members after “rigorous discussion and a lot of back-and-forth, we did reach consensus - very strong consensus - that (Hensel Phelps) is the best fit for us.”