- The Dodge Momentum Index rose 3.6% to 153.9 in December from a downwardly revised November reading of 148.6, according to Dodge Data & Analytics, marking the index's third straight monthly increase.
- The month's uptick was driven by the institutional sector, which shot up 8.6% month over month, while the commercial sector grew by a modest 0.7%. December saw 12 nonresidential projects valued at $100 million or more entering the planning stages, including the $200 million renovation of the Smithsonian Institution Visitor Center (The Castle) in Washington, DC; the $175 million Veterans Affairs Living Center in Long Beach, CA; a $100 million hotel on Harvard University’s campus in Allston, MA, and a $100 million office building in Little Rock, AR.
- On a full year average, the index was up 10.7% from 2016, with both commercial (11.4%) and institutional (9.7%) ending the year on a positive footing. December 2017's index reading was up 20.9% year over year.
While the Smithsonian Castle overhaul is in the planning stages, the entire $2 billion South Mall Campus renovation is still a point of contention among critics who approve of architect Bjarke Ingels Group's (BIG) take on what is a both a popular tourist attraction and spot for locals to get away from the frenetic pace of life in DC.
In fact, in a 2016 editorial by The Washington Post, James Goode, a previous curator for the Smithsonian Institution, called BIG's design " a wasteland of skylights reminiscent of a regional shopping mall." At the heart of the controversy is the planned razing of the 4.2-acre Enid A. Haupt Garden and its replacement. Opponents have called the new plaza design, which features a glass floor, "a carpet with its corners turned up."
In addition to the planned demolition of the Haupt garden gates and walls, the redesign will see the elimination of three museum entrance pavilions.
But the project still has to navigate the federal approval process. According to The Post, while members of the National Capital Planning Commission generally favor the effort to create an improved flow between the grounds and museum buildings, some have pushed back against getting rid of the Haupt garden, citing a need to consider how DC residents — not just tourists — use the Smithsonian grounds.