Building permits numbers in Jonesboro slightly higher in January; convention center deadline looms

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 183 views 

Jonesboro didn’t hit its building permit targets in 2017, but 2018 could be different. The city issued $9.493 million in commercial and residential permits in January, a 22% gain over the $7.758 million in January 2017.

Last year started strong too, when more than $14 million were issued in February, but dropped off later in the year. Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin told Talk Business & Politics he expected a record setting building spree in 2017, after setting all-time records in 2016. This year he is more cautiously optimistic.

“I think we’re almost in the norm. People don’t start building heavily until springtime, so I don’t read a lot into these numbers right now,” Perrin said.

Residential permits were the strongest sector in the city in January. Jonesboro issued $7.959 million in residential permits. Single family dwellings led the subset with $5.7 million issued. It was followed by building duplex ($590,450) and alterations ($55,000).

About $1.534 million in commercial permits were issued. Multi-family ($659,800) led the way in the subset, followed by alterations ($614,300) and building ($260,000).

One project that could be a boon to building permit numbers is the proposed convention center on the Arkansas State University campus. O’Reilly Hospitality Management has until Saturday to begin work on the project. ASU Vice-President for Strategic Communications and Economic Development Jeff Hankins told Talk Business & Politics on Thursday he’s seen pictures of fencing going up at the construction site.

The company had hoped to start construction in 2017 on a hotel/convention center on the campus. Permit issues, rising costs, and other factors delayed the project. The Jonesboro A&P Commission agreed in November to give up to $2.5 million in hotel tax rebates for the proposed hotel/convention center. O’Reilly Hospitality Management will keep the hotel taxes collected after its 203-bed Embassy Suites hotel, Houlihan’s Restaurant, and the proposed 40,000-square-foot Red Wolf Convention Center open.

The agreement is for 10 years after the open date, but is capped at $2.5 million.
OHM CEO Tim O’Reilly had previously asked the city to give his group $300,000 to market and advertise the project in addition to hotel tax incentives but that isn’t part of the deal.

Attempts to reach O’Reilly by phone were unsuccessful.

The timetable for construction will be set by OHM, not the university. ASU and OHM have an initial 50-year lease agreement that can be extended another 40 years. Starting in the fourth year, OHM will pay ASU $250,000 annually, and then starting in year 10 the amount will rise by a positive percentage difference based on the federal consumer price index. The university will also receive other benefits such as yearly room stays and others.

O’Reilly initially believed the project would cost about $35 million when it was first proposed in 2015. Since then, the price has grown to an almost $60 million price tag.

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