story by Ryan Saylor
Building permits in Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren were a combined $15.69 million in June, up 32.3% from the same month last year when permits only totaled $11.859 million in the three cities.
Building permits for all three cities are up 45.68% percent for the first half of the year compared to the same period last year. Total permits across the cities was $96.985 million from January through June this year, while the same period in 2013 saw only $66.573 million in permits issued.
Much of the activity has focused in Fort Smith, which has had $77.315 million in building permits. Several large development projects, including the $2 million renovation of the OTASCO building in downtown, a $3 million renovation of six buildings along Garrison Avenue into a mixed-use property and several wastewater projects by the city of Fort Smith, have lead to Fort Smith's high totals this year.
During June, 207 permits were issued in the city at a value of $11.069 million. Of the permits issued last month, 137 were residential permits valued at $4.667 million, and an additional 33 were commercial building permits valued at $4.53 million.
New commercial construction was soft during the month, with only three permits issued for a total value of $631,321. The action in commercial building was on the renovation side, where 12 permits worth $2.464 million were issued.
Driving a lot of permits is the construction of new homes at Chaffee Crossing and other new developments on the east side of town. Nineteen new residential building permits resulted in $3.996 million in construction last month.
Comparing this year's totals to last year, Fort Smith saw a rise in permits issued and total values. In terms of value, the city saw an overall increase of 49.08% from $7.425 million in June 2013 to $11.069 million this year.
GREENWOOD, VAN BUREN PERMITS
Greenwood issued four building permits last month for a total value of $518,950. The total represents a decline of 52.99% from last year's total of five permits for $1.104 million.
Of the four permits issued, three were for new residential construction valued at $509,200.
Van Buren's 37.87% rise in building permits from last year's total of $2.975 million to this year's total of $4.102 million is largely driven by construction tied to a sales tax vote in November 2012.
The vote approved a one cent sales tax to construction a new fire station, police department, expand parks and build a new senior center.
A building permit valued at $3.127 million was issued for the new senior center to be built at 607 Knox St. Mayor Bob Freeman said the city is seeking LEED certification for the building, one of very few in Van Buren to carry such a designation for energy efficiency.
In addition to the senior center, another 12 single family residential permits were issued at a value of $891,000.
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.