Construction News: 5 Boom Cities of 2017


A year ago, we predicted that these five cities would have good construction news in 2016: Houston, Dallas, New York City, Chicago and Denver. All five had solid years, although Houston now appears to be trending downward. This year, it’s more of the same for New York and Chicago while Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco make their first appearances on our boom radar.

New York City Construction News

Why the good construction news?

  • Second Avenue Subway and Hudson Yards: These long-term projects we mentioned last year—about 100 years long in the subway’s case—are moving closer to completion.
  • Construction start leader: At $13.7 billion, NYC led the nation in commercial and multifamily building construction starts during the first half of 2016.
  • Following up a record year: According to the New York Building Congress, $43.1 billion was spent on NYC construction in 2016. Their forecast for 2017 sees only a slight drop off to $42.1 billion.
Architectural rendering of a tower overlooking Central Park in New York City.
111 West 57th Street (Photo: Hayes Davidson and SHoP Architects)

Popular Projects

  • 111 West 57th: Scheduled for completion by early 2018, this 1,400-foot plus tower overlooking Central Park features “elegant condominiums priced from approximately $16,000,000.” Buy now while supplies last.
  • JFK International Airport: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently proposed a $10 billion modernization of JFK’s terminals as well as the highway and transit systems connected to the airport.
  • Pacific Park: Three of the six buildings currently under construction in this 22-acre Brooklyn megaproject will open in 2017. The development includes the Barclays Center sports arena (were the Nets and Islanders play) and will consist of 17 high-rises.

Average wage: $66,040

Chicago Construction News

Why the good construction news?

  • Construction starts still strong: While they’re not expected to be as high as 2016, construction starts in 2017 are still projected to reach $12.3 billion.
  • CTA modernization: The U.S. Department of Transportation allocated $1.1 billion to help the Chicago Transit Authority modernize the Red and Purple lines of their rail system. Total cost of the project is estimated at $2.1 billion.
  • Low commercial vacancy rates: The downtown office vacancy rate was lower at the end of 2016 than it has been in roughly 16 years. The completion of new office projects may make it harder to maintain the trend, though.
Architectural rendering of the Wanda Vista Tower in Chiacgo, Illinois.
Wanda Vista Tower rendering (Photo: Magellan Development)

Popular Projects

  • One Bennett Park: Construction is expected to be complete on this 843-foot residential tower in 2018. When finished, it will be Chicago’s tallest purely residential building.
  • Vista Tower: At 1,186 feet, this will be Chicago’s third tallest building when it opens in 2019 at an estimated cost of $1 billion.
  • McDonald’s: Mickey D’s is moving their corporate headquarters to the former Harpo Studios site where Oprah taped her show. The $250 million, 500,000 sq. ft. building will be finished in 2018. Wonder what they’ll serve in the cafeteria?

Average wage: $66,340

Los Angeles Construction News

Why the good construction news?

  • Foreign investment: L.A. hasn’t experienced a building boom like this since the 1920s; Chinese developers are financing much of it.
  • Tight housing market: With millennials entering the housing market, demand is much greater than supply, which is good news for residential construction.
  • L.A. has a subway? Not only does L.A. have its Metro, it has another $1.58 billion in federal funds to extend the Purple Line. It’s part of the city’s effort to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
Architectural rendering of the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, California.
Lucas Museum of Narrative Art rendering (Photo courtesy of LMNA)

Popular Projects

  • Lucas Museum of Narrative Art: Last year, it looked like George Lucas was leaning toward Chicago for his $1 billion museum showcasing visual storytelling. A few protests later, he took the project elsewhere. Namely, to seven acres in Exposition Park adjacent to his alma mater, USC.
  • Wilshire Grand Center: Now the tallest building in the western U.S., the Wilshire Grand is set to open in 2017. Its anchor tenant is the 900-room InterContinental hotel.
  • New NFL stadium: The Rams are back in L.A. Their game has a long way to go to live up to L.A.’s glitz, but a new Inglewood stadium will help them look the part. Expected to be ready for the 2019-2020 season, the $2.66 billion facility will also host the migrating Los Angeles Chargers. Stay with me, peeps.

Average wage: $54,750

San Francisco Construction News

Why the good construction news?

  • Job growth: The San Francisco area leads California in job growth. That good news is somewhat tempered by its notoriously vicious housing market. Sure, you can work there, but can you afford to live there?
  • Higher wages: Construction laborers (11.3 percent growth) and construction machine operators (9.4 percent growth) saw the greatest rises in average median salaries.
  • Highest rent in the U.S.: Rent for a one-bedroom apartment dropped 2.1 percent to $3,390 per month, still the highest in the U.S. Housing remains at a premium, but with soaring building costs the future of residential construction in 2017 is uncertain.
Architectural rendering of proposed Chase Center in San Francisco, California.
Chase Center (Photo: Image rendered by Steelblue. Courtesy of MANICA Architecture.)

Popular Projects

  • Chase Center: The Golden State Warriors hope to move from Oakland to San Francisco by 2019, and their new arena is closer to breaking ground in the Mission Bay area. Rumor is that Steph Curry will continue to shoot from Oakland even after Chase is finished.
  • Treasure Island: After years of wrangling, a $6 billion mixed-use development is finally underway. The man-made island was originally built for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939 and became a naval station in 1942.
  • Transbay Transit Center: Billed by some as “the most expensive bus terminal in history,” this multi-billion dollar facility includes a 5.4-acre rooftop park. Construction began in 2010 and Phase 1 is expected to be ready sometime in 2017.

Average wage: $69,510

Seattle Construction News

Why the good construction news?

  • Crane leader: Seattle led the nation in construction cranes dotting its skyline in 2016, a positive indicator of construction activity.
  • Increase in construction jobs: Of the five boom cities mentioned in this article, only Seattle ranks in the top 10 U.S. cities for growth in construction and extraction occupations.
  • Residential boom: Almost 10,000 new apartments are set to open in 2017, with even more expected to open in 2018.
Worker looking skyward out of the Alaskan Way Viaduct excavation site in Seattle, Washington.
Bertha gets ready to resume digging Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Tunnel. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

Popular Projects

  • Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Tunnel: Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine, is digging a two-mile tunnel underneath downtown Seattle. She’s expected to finish boring in 2019.
  • The Nexus: This 40-story condominium high-rise is one of many residential projects in the works. Construction starts January 2017.
  • The Mark: This 660-foot skyscraper will include a luxury hotel and office tenants. It’s scheduled to open mid-2017.

Average wage: $59,190

Other cities on the brink of construction booms include Nashville, Washington, DC, Phoenix, Atlanta and Miami. With the change in presidential administrations taking place this year, federal funding for infrastructure projects is uncertain. Fortunes can easily change for booming and non-booming areas. Either way, it’s a good bet that NYC will make our list again next year.