The total value of Spokane-area construction activity held relatively steady in 2008, with nonresidential projects offsetting a steep decline in new-home construction. Some industry observers say, though, that the pace of commercial construction probably has peaked here.
Building permit values for 2008 in Spokane County and the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley totaled $710.5 million, down less than 1 percent from 2007.
The 2008 permit values were buoyed by commercial construction, as building permit values for single-family residences in the three jurisdictions fell 42 percent to $158.5 million.
While there were more multimillion-dollar projects permitted in 2008 than in 2007, no single projects were started on the scale of the $74 million Shadle Park High School renovation, which was permitted in 2007, says Joe Wizner, the city's building official.
The permit with the highest value issued last year by the city of Spokane was for six city swimming pools valued at $20.2 million. That was followed by the $16 million Gonzaga Cincinnati Villa dormitory, the $12 million YMCA/YWCA central facility on Monroe Street, and the $10 million Gonzaga soccer stadium.
Wizner says commercial construction permitting activity was busy early in the year, but tailed off in recent months.
"We are fortunate to have a solid downtown core," he says. "There is always something going onlike the hotel."
Large projects permitted in 2008 in Spokane Valley include the $19.4 million, 265,000-square-foot office and parking structure being developed on east Indiana Avenue by Worthy Enterprises LLC, of Spokane Valley, and the $11.4 million, 144-unit Granite Point apartment complex being developed by HAL Valley Apartments LLC on Mansfield Avenue.
In the county, big projects for which permits were issued last year include the $9 million First Church of the Open Bible, on Division Street, and the YMCA recreational facility on the Newport Highway.
As for 2009, projects valued at $23 million currently are under review by the city of Spokane, including new North Valley and South Valley sewage pump stations valued at a combined $10.2 million, Wizner says.
"It's been slow the last month or two," he says. "We typically have had $40 million to $50 million in plan review at this time of year."
Building permit applications for single-family homes have been nearly nonexistent so far this year. "We've only had one or two come in," he says.
Wizner says anticipated big public projects might help bolster permit values this year.
One of the largest might be the initial work on a planned county wastewater treatment plant that would be located at the former stockyards site near Freya Street and Trent Avenue. That project, which has an estimated construction cost of up to $170 million, likely would be constructed in phases, the first of which could be ready for building-permit approval in mid- to late 2009, he says.
Several community college projects valued at a combined $98 million also are expected to start this year, he says.
Kate McCaslin, president and CEO of the Inland Pacific chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors Inc., a national trade organization, says there are some indications that commercial construction will slow in 2009.
"Some contractors have quite a good project backlog, and others don't," McCaslin says.
Lists of bidders for new projects are growing longer. "That's an indicator there's less work out there," she says.
McCaslin says she's not certain that stimulus packages being considered by the state and federal governments are going to offset quickly an expected near-term decline in construction projects.
"You can't throw $1 million at something and have it be there next week," she says. "It would pretty much have to be ready to go, and most projects that are ready to go are already funded."
Prices for construction materials have dropped in recent months, but now some developers are having trouble getting credit for planned projects, she says.
"Banks aren't giving credit on some projects that would have penciled out in the last couple of years," she says. "If we can get banks to do what they're supposed to domake loansit will help the private sector as well."
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