Will Construction Projects Come to a Grinding Halt When Pope Comes?

Developers constructing projects throughout Philadelphia are figuring out whether they will be able to continue working at their job sites when traffic and other restrictions are put in place during Pope Francis’ visit.

It’s not just projects in Center City that will feel the impact but those throughout Philadelphia.

“Anything we have going on in the city is going to be affected,” said Ed Jorden of CanusoJorden, a general contracting firm. The company has projects at Temple University, the Racquet Club and elsewhere.

The General Building Contractors Association of Philadelphia said it is exploring how it should advise its members working on projects. The group expects issues to arise beginning Thursday and lasting through at least the morning of Sept. 28.

“We’re close to having a plan,” said Ben Connors, who serves as co-director of the group. It anticipates unveiling something formal at a later date, he said.

The ability to get construction workers in and out of the city appears to be the biggest issue. There's also the added dilemma of what to do with union workers who are contracted to work 40 hours a week but could see their schedules curtailed by two days. Do these contractors work more hours on days leading up to the pope’s visit and therefore be paid at a higher hourly rate since it would mean extra time on some days? These are among the issues that are being debated, according to people in the industry.

Liberty Property Trust is developing the Comcast Innovation & Technology Center at 18th and Arch streets, which is one of the biggest projects underway in the city. The company has started to talk with contractors working on the skyscraper to figure out how the closures will affect it.

“There is still uncertainty about the plan,” said Jeanne Leonard, a spokeswoman for Liberty. “It’s five weeks away and should be manageable. It’s very possible that there will be no work on the site for a period of time. Whether that is one day, two or three days, we don’t know yet. It’s the price of doing business in a metropolitan area. It’s fairly routine to have large events you’re going to have to deal with from time to time. We’re accustomed to that.” 

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