DPR Construction, the firm that has worked on vital renovations to Smith Memorial Student Union since May 2002, is pulling out of Portland State after winding up its projects on campus.
DPR has withdrawn from future construction of the new PSU engineering building. The project, which has faced some delays in financing, will rebid this fall. DPR is not going out of business, as had been rumored around the campus.
Mike Irish, director of facilities, said, “DPR called us into a meeting a couple of months ago and advised us that they are drawing their concentration back toward their home office in Redwood City, Calif.
“We asked them how that would affect things here. They felt that they would continue to complete the projects they had here.”
The largest DPR job was to be the future construction of the planned engineering building, which is just starting phase one.
“That building has been delayed a little bit because of funding, and DPR was not happy with the delay because they did not want crews up here with nothing to do,” Irish explained. Negotiations with PSU led to an agreement by DPR that it would see the current phase of the Smith Union project through to completion.
Irish said Portland State understands the DPR position.
“The economy being the way it is, you don’t want to be strung out all over the United States,” Irish said. “So they are pulling back into their central area.”
Irish said DPR will keep some people in the Portland area, as it has a long-standing contract with Intel.
“They’re not going to give that up,” Irish said. “They’re just going to walk away from some of their construction projects that have not started yet.”
One of these was a project for Oregon State University that had not yet been started when DPR pulled out.
There will be no problem of adjustments for PSU if DPR’s work needs to be revised.
“We still have the same recourse,” Irish said. “They just won’t be on site. Their Intel crew will come over and deal with it or give us the allowance to bring somebody else in.”
The current phase on Smith Union will continue on a slightly different model.
“A lot of the people that moved out here with DPR, some of their top people, have bought homes here and have been here for awhile,” Irish said. “They did not want to relocate, so they formed a new company called Fortis Construction.”
Francis McBride, PSU project manager on the Smith Union work, said DPR is subcontracting the project management to Fortis. He said the key DPR personnel on the Smith Union job is moving to Fortis, so, in essence, the project will continue with the same project management and same crew it has had from the beginning.
“The personnel working around Smith won’t be any different from the ones who have been there since May of last year,” McBride said. “It gives Fortis a good project to start up with.”
The work consists of seismic upgrading for safety, upgrading for fire safety and other remodeling. Currently there are construction partitions around the food court area and on the second floor involving the White Gallery, the browsing lounge and the Cascade Room.
McBride described the work as very complicated, particularly since much of it is done in high-traffic areas.
“It made for a very difficult project,” he said.
McBride anticipates the Smith Union project will be completed by next spring.
The end of the DPR-Fortis project won’t mean the end of Smith Union renovation.
“There’s always going to be work to be done on Smith,” McBride said.
The changeover is not going to cost the university anything.
“We’re glad to still have that expertise, because they’ve been in on this from the beginning,” Irish said. “We’re glad to still have that expertise on site at least until we can hand it out to someone else.”
Irish had nothing but good to say about the university’s relationship with DPR.
“We appreciate the fact that they didn’t just come in and say we’re pulling the plug, we’re out of here,” he said. “They’ve worked with us to see to it that we got at least a clean handoff. We’ve been well satisfied with their work, very much so.”