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UCF project to expand student union sets high standard for contract bidders

UCF project to expand student union sets high standard for contract bidders
UCF is revamping its food court and prospective bidders face quite a vetting. (UCF)

The University of Central Florida has started seeking bids for a $14.5 million expansion of its student union food court, but it will hardly be a cakewalk to win this contract.

The 15,000-square-foot food court on the first floor of UCF's student union building will be totally renovated, with another 5,500 square feet added.

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The project, which is expected to run from January 2017 to early 2019, will add 750 seats to the 400 already there and also involve the installation of a stairway leading from the first floor to the second.

UCF has started the bidding process by putting out a Request for Proposals for architectural services with engineering consultants, which are due May 9,  ahead of seeking a general contractor.

Based on the bid proposal, for a project that involves $11.6 million of construction, UCF wants to know a lot more than whether the contractor handles projects on time and within budget.

Contractors that have been on the convicted vendor list for a public entity crime committed within the past 36 months need not apply.

Additionally, firms must vouch they will not use the services of, or contract with, any supplier or subcontractor for the food court project that has landed on the state's convicted vendor list in the past 36 months.

UCF is requiring a list of completed jobs over the last three years, with contract value, contact name and the client's telephone number.

Bidders must also provide granular-level information about five projects that are similar in size, complexity, and scope of the UCF project.

UCF also wants to know exactly who it will have on campus, so biographies must be provided for the project executive/principal, design architect, interior designer, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, plumbing engineer, food service designer, civil engineer, LEED AP and "any other personnel that you believe are critical to the success of the work to be performed," the RFP says.

Bidders must describe their familiarity in working with public, higher education clients and their standards and processes, supply information about their current workload and staffing, and offer detail on the services and personnel at all of a bidders' offices.

There is also a conflict resolution clause, with contractors having to describe how they've resolved three workplace conflicts in the past.

The requirements, while onerous, are one way public entities have to do business when they build.

That is because they are acting under the Consultant's Competitive Negotiation Act that was adopted by the Florida Legislature in 1973. The statute requires state government agencies, municipalities and school districts to select a contractor based on qualifications rather than on a "lowest bid" basis.

The law was enacted, veteran builders say, because public entities, which often have more limited funds, were going with contractors that offered the lowest prices and paid for it by getting less than quality work.

"Public entities get a better end-product than they used to by using this process," under the statute, said Sandy Winkler-Ehmer, senior business development manager for construction management/general contractor Wieland.

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And the competition for these projects is "intense," she said, despite all of the hours that go into preparing the bid.

The chosen company gets the prestige of working for a well-regarded entity and adds a top-notch project to its portfolio.

The act also requires public entities to consider the capabilities, adequacy of bidder's staff, the company's past record and it's experience, which are not out of the norm in the bidding process for private projects like commercial buildings and homes.

UCF is simply practicing good business for a significant project, said Lee McNeil , head of business development at Williams Company, which did the work at the existing Center for Emerging Media for UCF and reviewed the UCF request for proposals for the Downtown Campus project.

"They want to know if those projects were completed on time, on budget and with a spirit of teamwork, trust and cooperation between the team and the owner," McNeil  said. "They also want to determine the capacity of the team members and their current workload to ensure they have the resources to manage the project effectively."

UCF's current bid opportunity is for architectural services with engineering consultants. This must come in as one bid — from two companies that team up, or one that provides both services.

As UCF moves forward, it will need a general contractor and that request for proposals can be expected to be just as thorough.

"Certainly any company competing to work on the project will need to demonstrate their experience, qualifications and ability to perform the job," said UCF spokesman Mark Schlueb.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at ktalley@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5176. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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