Fort Smith building permit values fall more than 34% in January-April period

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 24 views 

New home construction in Fort Smith is up more than 30% in the first four months of 2016, but overall building permit values in the city are down more than 34% compared to the same period last year thanks to the large permit in 2015 for the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The value of all building permits issued January-April by Fort Smith totaled $44.624 million, down 34.46% compared to the same period in 2015. However, the 2015 period included a $22 million permit for construction of the osteopathic facility.

Work began in February 2015 on the $32.4 million facility located in the Chaffee Crossing area. The school will be housed in a three story, 102,000-square-foot building, and a fully operational osteopathic college is expected to serve about 600 students. It is set to open for the first class of 150 students in the fall of 2017.

The permit value for the first four months of 2016 is down just 3.2% if factoring out the osteopathic college permit.

But commercial construction is off to a slow start in 2016 even if factoring out the college permit. Permits for new commercial construction in the January-April period totaled just $4.864 million, well below the $10.152 million for new construction – excluding the $22 million college permit – in the same period of 2015.

All commercial construction permits issued January-April totaled $22.242 million, below the $45.134 million in the same period and below the $23.134 million if excluding the college permit. Some of the biggest commercial permits issued January-April were for industrial renovation work. They include:
• $2.863 million for work at Gerber Products;
• $2.69 million for work at Georgia-Pacific (Dixie Cup plant); and
• $1.4 million for roof work at Graphic Packaging at Chaffee Crossing.

Helping to boost the building trades in Fort Smith has been new home construction. Permits issued January-April for new home construction totaled $12.762 million, up 32.1% compared to the $9.656 million in the same period of 2015.

Increases in new home construction coincide with increased home sales in Sebastian County. During the first quarter of the year, there were 321 homes sold in Sebastian County and primarily in the Fort Smith market. That’s up from the 303 sold in the county during the first quarter of 2015. Sebastian County homes sales totaled $43.773 million through the first quarter of the year, up 6.03% from the $41.281 million reported a year ago.

The residential numbers could skew higher depending on how much roof damage was caused by the recent hail storm to hit parts of the city.

Apartment and duplex construction – new and rehab – is on the rise, with category permits issued January-April totaling $4.42 million, up 88% compared to the $2.351 million during the same period of 2015.

Without the permitting of large projects in the remainder of the year, permit totals will struggle to keep pace with the 2015 permit value total of $191.369 million. That tally was 9.8% above the $174.252 million in 2014, and 3.4% more than the $185.057 million in 2013.

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