As noted in the outset of this section, 1992-93 was a depression era in the construction industry, and bids on The RSA Union office building and parking deck were taken on January 21, 1993, slap-dab in the middle of the economic recession that Bronner had predicted. We received nine proposals, with a low bid of $35 Million, $10 Million under our estimate! There was only a 1 ½ percent spread between the three low bidders, so it was not a fluke bid.
The upshot was that Dr. Bronner and the RSA got a grandly appointed building at an extraordinary $74 per square foot, and that figure even included a generous allowance for tenant fitout work. That cost was 20-percent below the square foot cost of the similar ACC which was bid three years earlier, and only $14 psf more than the Montgomery County Courthouse, which we had stripped down to painted sheetrock and bid only nine years earlier.
Five days after the bid, in a routine progress meeting with David Bronner and the other architectural firms, I told Dr. Bronner he had pulled off his third “deal of the century”, besting his monumental bid-timing successes of 1975 and 1989.
The low bid amount was all the more exceptional because, in addition to our prequalification of general contractors, we had run a less formal, but nonetheless demanding, prequalification procedure on 30 of the subcontract trades that were necessary to perform the work. And to top that off, Ron Blount and I had conducted a pre-bid conference in which we gave fair warning to all bidders that they would be held to the highest possible construction standards, and they should prepare their bids accordingly. Our words were so harsh that we actually frightened two of the prequalified bidders out of bidding.
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)