Residential activity begins to accelerate
Though still well below pre-recession pace, developers, builders enthusedMarch 14th, 2013
After a long period of decline, the residential construction market began to show a few signs of rejuvenation here last year, and builders and developers say that upswing clearly is accelerating this year.
Last year, the city of Spokane and Spokane County issued a combined total of 659 permits valued at about $203 million for new single-family homes, data from those two jurisdictions show.
That represented a 29 percent increase in the number of permits and a 70 percent increase in total valuation from 2011, when 510 permits valued at $119.5 million were issued. Similarly separated residential permit data wasn't available from the city of Spokane Valley.
Adding in new townhouses, duplexes, and apartments, they issued a combined total of 704 permits valued at $226.7 million in 2012. That represented a 24 percent increase in the number of permits and a 38 percent rise in total valuation from the prior year, when 567 permits valued at $164.4 million were issued.
The city of Spokane issued 186 permits for single-family homes with a total valuation of $49.7 million in 2012, compared with 155 single-family homes with a total value of $39.2 million in 2011.
The county saw a sizable jump in residential construction in 2012, with 473 new single-family homes permitted with a total value of $153.3 million, compared with 359 single-family residences with a total value of $80.3 million a year earlier.
"Builders are upbeat. Everyone I talk to is upbeat," says Joel White, executive officer for the Spokane Home Builders Association. "The builders who survived the downturn are doing very well right now. There are just fewer builders."
Overall, White says, "It looks like it's going to be better than last year."
He adds, though, that he expects the improvement to continue to be gradual, rather than something that could be described as a boomlet, and he notes that the level of new-home construction activity still is far below what it was in the years preceding the recession.
Corey Condron, president of Condron Homes LLC, which has been one of the Spokane area's more active builders of single-family homes, says, "I'm feeling very good about this year. We've sold seven homes just in the last two weeks. It's the first time that's happened in the last seven years. There's a buzz in every sector of real estate."
Rising building costs and the threat of interest rates potentially beginning to creep upward soon are among several factors "putting some urgency into the buyers' market," Condron says, adding, "We have about a six-year pent-up demand in my opinion."
Also, he says, "The pre-sale and the custom markets have come back strong in the last month. Half of my business right now is between $250,000 and $400,000," rather than the lower-priced, more entry-level homes that have dominated building activity here recently.
Condron says his company currently has about 10 homes under construction, and he expects that to double within about the next two months. Developments in which the company is building homes include Wandermere Heights, north of Spokane; Prairie Breeze, on Five Mile Prairie; and Farr Meadows and Highland Estates, in Spokane Valley.
Separately, he says he expects later this year to begin developing a 16-lot gated community, called Granite Hill, near the intersection of Henry Road and Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley.
Greenstone Homes, of Liberty Lake; Copper Basin Construction Inc., of Hayden; Viking Construction Inc., also of Hayden; and Paras Homes LLC, of Spokane are among a number of other active residential builders here.
Jim Frank, CEO of Greenstone Corp., says construction activity in the 78-acre Kendall Yards mixed-use development, along the Spokane River northwest of downtown, will escalate this year.
In the residential sector of the development, Greenstone plans to finish a third phase of residential construction with a combination of an additional 20 townhouse and single-family residential units valued at a total of $5 million.
Greenstone also plans this year to begin construction of a $10 million, fourth residential phase of 60 townhouses and single-family homes that would be located near an extension of Summit west to Nettleton Street.
"The residential side of Kendall Yards is selling faster than we can get buildings permitted," Frank says.
Greenstone also has single-family home projects progressing at a number of other locations, including Eagle Ridge, Rocky Hill, River District, Ponderosa Ridge, and Bidwell Park in Spokane County and at Montrose in Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene Place in Coeur d'Alene, according to its website.
"There's just a little more consumer confidence as the economy picks up, and interest is at amazingly low rates. It's helping drive the fundamentals that enable people to purchase homes," Frank says.
At Eagle Ridge, the big south Spokane development, owner San Diego-based Newland Communities Inc. broke ground last week on its 91-lot ninth phase, says Lori Henriksen, Spokane-based vice president and general manager for the company.
All of the lots are under contract with builders and are expected to be turned over to them in market-ready condition by Aug. 1, Henriksen says.
Newland last year wrapped up work on two remaining portions of the development's 192-lot eighth phase, and just 38 lots remain available for sale in that phase, "so we're scurrying to bring on the next phase," she says.
"We've had excellent sales this year, averaging about seven to eight homes per month as of the end of February, and March is off to a great start," she says, adding, "We estimate somewhere in the 75 range in home sales this year."
Eagle Ridge currently has about 700 occupied homes, and Newland anticipates "bringing on 100 or so lots for each of the next three years," which would bring the development to its roughly 1,100-lot build-out completion in 2016, Henriksen says.
The development began seeing an upturn in activity last fall, and, "This year it's been this constant traffic of Realtors, builders, and buyers," she says. The most popular price point has been in the mid-$200,000 area, but homes there range in price from "the mid-170s to the mid-400s," she says.
Perhaps the most visible current construction project in the previously mentioned Kendall Yards development is the $9.5 million Bridgeway Apartments complex, which consists of six three-story structures overlooking the Spokane River east of the Maple Street Bridge. Ponderosa Ridge Homes LLC, a Greenstone construction arm, is the contractor on the 84-unit project, and Nystrom Olson Inc., of Spokane, designed it.
Greenstone also has begun developing a five-building apartment complex with a total of about 45 living units in the River District south of the Spokane River in Liberty Lake. The development, called Courtyard at River District, will include a combination of traditional apartments and larger townhome-style units with two-car garages.
"A number of people are renting as a lifestyle choice," Frank says.
Outlining additional phases of Greenstone residential development there and elsewhere, he says, "It's really been the first year since the beginning of the recession that we've had significant residential subdivision work. We've run out of inventory, and we're having to develop some new lots."
Developers of the long-planned Clare View senior housing complex on the South Hill have begun work on that project, which will involve constructing 61 apartment units in five buildings, says Dave Roberts, senior developer at Spokane Housing Ventures.
The $20 million project, to be located at 3146 E. 44th just east of a Shopko outlet, also will include constructing a community building to serve the apartment complex, and rehabilitating the nearby 124-unit Clare House Apartments complex, at 4827 E. Palouse Highway, Roberts says.
Whitewater Creek Inc., of Hayden, is the contractor on the project; ZBA Architecture PS, of Spokane, designed it; and the Spokane office of Tacoma-based AHBL Inc. is the civil engineer.
At Clare View, the largest structure will be a two-story, 41,700-square-foot building with 38 two-bedroom rental units and two one-bedroom units, Roberts says.
Spokane Housing Ventures is a nonprofit that develops and manages housing it rents to families with low incomes or special housing needs.
Meanwhile, Spokane-based Community Frameworks, another nonprofit, is getting under way on two low-income senior housing projects with a total value of $10 million that it announced earlier this year.
One project will be the $4 million, 29-unit Pioneer Park Place apartments, at 424 W. Seventh, on the lower South Hill, said Chris Venne, the nonprofit's finance director. The other project will be the $6 million, 24-unit Appleway Court II project, at 9706 E. Appleway, in Spokane Valley.
T.W. Clark Construction LLC, of Spokane Valley, is the contractor on the Pioneer Park Place project, which Cortner Architectural Co., of Spokane, designed. In that project, Community Frameworks plans to convert the former Garden Terrace Manor nursing home at 424 W. Seventh into an apartment building.
Kop Construction Co., of Spokane, is the contractor on the Appleway Court II project, and ZBA Architecture PS, also of Spokane, designed it. The same team was involved in the 38-unit initial phase of Appleway Court, which was built in 2009 at the southeast corner of Appleway Boulevard and Farr Road.
In Coeur d'Alene, the city recently issued building permits for a $7.7 million second phase of construction at an apartment complex north of Seltice Way, on the west edge of the city.
The project owner, Riverview Ventures II LLC, has started construction on six three-story apartment buildings there, four with 16 living units each and two with 12 units each, says Kevin Rudeen, who heads the development company. The city also issued the developer permits for two planned duplex units.
Rudeen also heads Rudeen Development LLC, the Liberty Lake-based contractor on both phases of the project. Rudeen Development began work on the six-building, 109-unit initial phase in 2010 and completed it last year. Rudeen says the company expects to complete the second phase in August.