Fort Smith metro building activity best since 2013, region ahead year-to-date

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 539 views 

Building activity in the Fort Smith region surged in the month of May, leading to the first year-to-date gains of 2018. While the region — Fort Smith, Van Buren, and Greenwood — struggled through the first quarter, it came on strong in April, increasing by approximately 68%. Adding to that were Fort Smith’s May numbers, which were the strongest since May 2013.

In the last 31 days, the region as a whole posted $31.433 million in valuations, a 173.69% increase from May 2017’s $11.485 million. It was enough to boost YTD numbers to a gain of 16.86% with $103.348 million against $88.44 million through the first five months of 2017.

Fort Smith, the region’s largest city, led the way with $30.044 million, a 219.35% increase from May 2017’s $9.408 million. From that figure, $22.129 million was commercial on 36 permits, but the majority was attributed to one permit from the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE).

Earlier this month, the medical university revealed it would soon begin construction on its College of Health Sciences. On Monday (May 21), the city announced ACHE had filed a permit for the $14 million facility. The value parallels the $13.6 million permit that carried a significant portion of May 2013’s $30.506 million tally. The biggest difference between the two is the previous action was a city government-filed permit for the construction of a new pump station on Jenny Lind. The ACHE’s permit will result in an estimated 30 faculty positions paying an average of $100,000 per year (or $3 million in annual payroll).

May 2013 also was the same month HMA – the former owner of Sparks Health System – began converting the former Phoenix Expo Center to what is now the Shared Services Center. But the previous 31 days have answered that with two significant projects — one residential and one commercial. The residential is the South Fork Duplexes project from Branson Homes on 7921 Texas Road, which showed up with ACHE on the latest monthly report. Branson Homes filed a $4.03 million valuation across 25 permits. Twelve of the planned units will cost around $123,520 each, while 13 will clock in at $196,000. Overall residential numbers, including the duplex project, were $7.157 million on 159 permits.

On the commercial side, Phoenix Investors filed two permits totaling $3.655 million on the former Whirlpool location at 6400 Jenny Lind. A building official with the city said the work was to “redo the roof” and for “demolition and minor repairs on the inside.” The building is 1.136 million square feet and rests on about 97 acres. Phoenix Investors has other former Whirlpool locations in its portfolio. While the company hasn’t announced tenants in Fort Smith, other companies that have entered their buildings include Briggs & Stratton, Kohler, Georgia-Pacific, and Delta Faucets.

The city began 2018 with a sluggish first quarter but came alive in April on the backs of two major commercial projects — the $5.7 million Silgan Plastic Containers permit at 7101 Arkansas 45 and Firstar Bank’s planned $3.5 million location at 6200 Massard Road.

The Silgan permit is part of a planned $38 million investment that will create 150 new jobs with average pay of around $21 per hour. Firstar Bank will open in 2019 and be home to 20 employees. Its location is near the ACHE in the city’s Chaffee Crossing district, which on Friday (May 18) witnessed the groundbreaking of ERC Holdings of Fort Smith’s $11 million “live-above-retail” combined use development. The project features 8,800 square feet of commercial space; a 2,500-square foot space designated for restaurant use; and 43 residential units consisting of townhomes and apartments.

While 2018 trailed 2017 significantly through the first quarter, January-March were not without a few wins. In early January, Tacos 4 Life, Gusano’s Pizza, and Sumo Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar began working on new locations along Phoenix Avenue (more than $6 million in activity). Also, Methodist Village Health, Rehab, and Residential Living began work on its planned $55 million “life plan community” concept with a $6.162 million permit filing in February. Other major permits included a $1.84 million remodel at ABB/Baldor Electric, 5711 R.S. Boreham Drive, and a $1.668 million addition at Aldi’s, 8400 Phoenix Ave.

Van Buren, the region’s second largest city, was down slightly for the month with $1.148 million on 63 projects against 2017’s $1.184 million, a decline of 3.04%. Even with the dip, however, the city is up 57.54% for the year with $12.789 million in valuations against $8.118 million through the first five months.

Its major wins have come from two permits totaling $4.911 million, both issued to Bekaert, which recently announced a $16 million expansion along with the addition of 40 new jobs that will pay an average of $20 per hour. Bekaert’s Rogers, Ark., plant underwent a $32 million expansion in 2016. It added 100 jobs. The last known Van Buren expansion was in 2013 and added 45.

Greenwood has struggled throughout 2018, and May was no exception with just $241,520 in activity against May 2017’s $893,615, a drop of 72.97%. For the year, the city has posted $4.076 million in permitting activity, which is off 36.33% from last year’s $6.402 million.

Combined total for the three cities
2017: $210.844 million
2016: $211.345 million
2015: $218.899 million
2014: $198.983 million
2013: $202.389 million
2012: $154.64 million
2011: $201.079 million
2010: $149 million
2009: $164 million

Fort Smith
2017: $169.958 million
2016: $185.783 million
2015: $191.631 million
2014: $174.252 million
2013: $185.057 million
2012: $136.248 million

Van Buren
2017: $19.665 million
2016: $15.327 million
2015: $16.009 million
2014: $7.918 million
2013: $8.283 million
2012: $8.609 million

2017: $15.23 million
2016: $10.235 million
2015: $11.259 million
2014: $16.813 million
2013: $9.049 million
2012: $9.983 million

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