Some construction observers here say the industry is poised for a strong start in 2015.
Contractors are starting to compile a backlog of work that will carry them further into the new year than backlogs of the last few post-recession years, says Wayne Brokaw, executive director of the Inland Northwest Association of General Contractors.
Brokaw cautions, though, that post-recession growth so far isn’t as robust as members of the trade association would like it to be.
“We’re a long way from recovery,” he says. “Most members are probably only back to 60 to 80 percent of the workforce since the downturn.”
Recent voter approval of the Riverfront Park and city streets levies last month will provide a needed boost for construction jobs, Brokaw says.
“That will be really important this coming year,” he says.
Several contractors and subcontractors have been keeping busy on projects this fall and winter, including on the $135 million Davenport Grand Hotel project and the $50 million Spokane Convention Center expansion, Brokaw says.
“I think some momentum is going to carry over into 2015,” he says.
Barry Baker, CEO of Baker Construction & Development Inc., of Spokane, says 2014 has been a solid year for the company, and the first quarter of 2015 is looking even better.
“Now, the private sector is starting to come alive again,” Baker says, adding, “An area we haven’t seen growth in that’s starting to have a resurgence is retail. People now are starting to look at new construction again.”
Baker Construction is the contractor on a $10 million apartment complex project on the west edge of the University District, where the company recently performed initial site work.
The company also plans to start work in 2015 on a new $3 million Pet Emergency Clinic PS building at 21 E. Mission.
Homebuilder Corey Condron, owner of Condron Homes LLC, of Spokane, is anticipating strong sales in 2015.
“This fall has been the busiest season we’ve had in six years,” Condron says, adding, “Fall usually isn’t busy.”
He says the recent surge in activity bodes well for spring 2015.
Condron Homes, which specializes in constructing homes in the $275,000-$400,000 range, sold 24 houses in 2014, and expects to build 40 homes in 2015.
On the public works front, city of Spokane spokeswoman Julie Happy says Spokane will have an ambitious construction season in 2015.
“We will send contracts totaling roughly $50 million out to bid next year,” Happy says.
City projects in the pipeline include at least three multimillion-dollar combined sewer overflow projects as part of the city’s cleaner river faster initiative, she says.
Other major city projects will include the second phase of High Drive improvements between Bernard Street and Hatch Road; upgrades to the Monroe-Lincoln street couplet between Eighth and Main avenues; and constructing a section of the Ben Burr Trail between Underhill Park and the Centennial Trail, Happy says.
In a collaboratively timed project, the city plans to improve Havana Street from Glenrose Road to 37th Avenue, and Spokane County plans to extend improvements on Glenrose south to 57th Avenue, she says.
Happy says a number of major private sector projects envisioned in and around downtown are currently in the conceptual stage.
Rita Heldenbrand, executive director of the Spokane Regional Plan Center, says the number of project plans processed through the center is up more than 5 percent so far this year compared to all of 2013.
Heldenbrand describes the increase as steady, albeit slower than in previous cycles of overall economic growth. “We’re not seeing a huge spike for 2015,” she says. “We need to see more investment in infrastructure and more public spending in roads, bridges, and schools.”
Heldenbrand is optimistic about 2015, though.
“We’re hearing about things we haven’t seen come through,” she says. “Those many times fuel additional projects.”
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