Newswatch: Clark Construction wins $42M travel plaza contract -- Gazette.Net


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Clark Construction wins $42M travel plaza contract

Clark Construction of Bethesda snagged the $42 million contract to overhaul two travel plazas on Interstate 95 north of Baltimore, a public-private partnership project that was at the center of a bid protest and court battle.

Areas USA of Miami ended up winning the state contract last year over HMSHost of Bethesda, which had operated the plazas since 1987. Areas took over operations of the Maryland House in Harford County and Chesapeake House in Cecil County in September.

In November, Baltimore City Circuit Judge Audrey Carrion dismissed HMSHost’s lawsuit against the Maryland Transportation Authority, Areas USA and other parties. HMSHost filed the suit in March after the state Board of Public Works awarded the multimillion-dollar, 35-year contract to Areas to redevelop and operate the travel plazas.

Maryland House was closed and demolished in the fall. In its place, Clark is building a 42,400-square-foot facility that will be completed in December.

Construction at Chesapeake House is to start next month. The new 30,000-square-foot plaza will be built adjacent to the existing facility, which will remain open during construction, which is expected to finish in June 2014.

Areas USA is investing $56 million in redeveloping the plazas, which it will operate under a 35-year contract awarded by the Maryland Board of Public Works. HMSHost, which had operated the plazas since 1987, has contested the award but its lawsuit was dismissed in November by Baltimore City Circuit Judge Audrey Carrion.

Besides investing $56 million to renovate the facilities, Areas, a subsidiary of Areas S.A. of Barcelona, Spain, which operates in more than 70 airports worldwide, plans to spend $44 million to $48 million in future capital improvements. Areas will keep at least 85 percent of gross sales at the plazas, while the state receives revenue for 35 years of as much as $488 million, under the agreement.

New Wisp owner plans improvements

EPR Properties of Kansas City, Mo., has closed on its purchase of Wisp Resort in McHenry and will operate the ski area with partner Everbright Pacific of Salt Lake City, an affiliate of Pacific Group.

EPR Properties is a specialty real estate investment trust that owns, develops, leases and finances properties focused on entertainment, recreation and education. With total investments exceeding $3.1 billion, it now has 12 metropolitan ski properties in seven states, including Ragged Mountain in Danbury, N.H., according to a company statement.

Everbright Pacific plans to expand and improve Wisp’s services and amenities next summer, according to General Manager Tim Prather. More immediate plans call for expanding rental services to alleviate congestion during busy periods.

Besides skiing and snowboarding, improvements are planned for tubing, ice skating, cross-country skiing and other winter activities, plus golf, fly-fishing, mountain biking, canopy tours and the mountain coaster. The 132-acre mountain has 10 lifts and 32 trails.

“Wisp is an excellent fit for us, and we are delighted to be working with EPR Properties on this outstanding year-round resort,” Douglas Anderson, CEO of Pacific Group, said in the statement.

In October 2011, Wisp, Maryland’s only ski resort, fell victim to the collapse of the real estate market, as its owners, including D.C. Development of McHenry, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after defaulting on a $23.5 million loan.

Testing company wins $3M Army contract

Silver Spring testing and robotic-control company AnthroTronix has won a $3 million contract from the Army to help transition its mobile brain-health assessment tool to military operations.

The tool allows medical providers to conduct tests on people with brain injuries or mental stress, making brain-health assessment more accessible and immediate, according to a company statement. The system was originally developed by AnthroTronix for the military for battlefield use in 2010.

AnthroTronix was founded in 1999 and made Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in 2008. It specializes in developing advanced interface technology, including products for computing and robotic control systems, and testing simulation tools for training applications.

Fed survey: Activity up in December

Business activity in Maryland increased at only a “modest pace” in December, according the latest Federal Reserve survey of businesspeople in the state.

The general business activity index registered 7 for the month, down 17 points from November. The sales index was flat after a reading of 18 in November.

Other indexes that showed weakness include business expenditures, spending on business services and capital expenditures, and labor market conditions. Also, profit margins continued to struggle, with higher input costs and flat output prices.

Still, expectations for activity in the near future remained positive, with 45 percent of respondents anticipating greater business activity six months from now, while just 7 percent expected activity to decline.

The monthly survey is sent to about 160 executives whose businesses match the state profile. About 75 typically respond.