story by Ryan Saylor
Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire. Supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The value of building permits in Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren were a combined $16.345 million in the month of May. The total represents a decline of 52.76% when compared with May 2013, which itself was a standout month for the year overall when looking at building permits.
So far, year-to-date figures are only slightly higher than the same period for last year. Building permits in the three cities were a combined $81.295 million for the period, an increase of 0.81% over the same five month period last year, which saw building permits total $80.643 million.
The city of Fort Smith issued 180 permits during the month of May, totaling $13.494 million. The figure represents a decline of 55.77% over the same month last year, when 206 permits worth $30.506 million were issued.
May 2013 represented a month full of several commercial projects, including a new $13.6 million pumnp station on Jenny Lind and a $1.986 million of the Phoenix Expo Center. The former expo center was converted to office space for HMA, the parent company of Sparks Health System. The office complex has since opened with hundreds now employed at the site.
By comparison, last month only saw one commercial building constructed at a cost of $1.051 million with 15 remodels, which only totaled $6.127 million. In all, only $9.354 million worth of building permits were issued on 25 projects.
The city of Greenwood saw the most improvement of all three cities, with five permits issued with a value of $532,466. During May 2013, no permits were issued in the city.
But the figures are still down when compared with May 2012, when five permits were issued at a value of $733,540. The latest total represents a decline of 27.41% decline between the two years.
Van Buren saw $2.319 million in building permits issued in May, a decline of 43.387% from May 2013.
The $3.164 million expansion of Tankersley Foods was the primary driver of last year's figures.
Driving figures in May 2014 is a $2 million commercial building project at 323 Access Road. The site was once a small distribution center for Yellow Freight, though the site has been closed with little activity since being bought by Southeastern Freight.
According to Service Center Manager Scott Lackie of Southeastern Freight Lines, the company is renovating the site and anticipates moving its 38 employees from its Fort Smith service center to the Van Buren location by the end of the year. He said any additional hiring for the site would depend on freight levels at the facility, though Lackie said the maximum number of employees the Van Buren site could accommodate would likely be around 40.
Combined values in the three cities during 2013 were $203.037 million, compared to $157.32 million during 2012. The 2013 value is above the $201.079 million in 2011.
Fort Smith closed 2013 with the largest share of valuations, logging $177.687 million (a one-year increase of about 30.24% from $136.428 million in 2012), while Van Buren was the next largest with $17.067 million (a one-year increase of 38.96% from $12.282 million in 2012). Greenwood posted an additional $8.283 million, the only city to show a decrease from the previous year's total of $8.609 million (a decrease of 3.79%).
The gains in the Fort Smith market were largely from industrial construction projects at Chaffee Crossing, the construction of Mercy's new orthopedic hospital along Phoenix Avenue and various municipal construction projects across the city.