Building activity in Fort Smith got off to a horrible start in 2019. But for good reasons – new school construction – and not so good reasons – tornado and flood damage – the city could post record construction activity in 2019.
Permitted projects set a record of $191.631 million in 2015. The city had $187.678 million in permitted projects in 2018, up from the $169.958 million in 2017. (See more info on permit history at the end of this report.)
Fort Smith issued $56.55 million in building permits between January and May, a 34.61% drop – down almost $30 million – from the January through May 2018 amount of $86.483 million. Building permit values in Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren combined for a total of $65.077 million for the first five months of 2019, down more than 37% from the $103.348 million in the same period of 2018.
But based on permitted projects in Fort Smith during the first two weeks of June, announced projects not yet permitted, and the expected work to renovate or rebuild hundreds of residential and commercial structures damaged by a recent tornado and record Arkansas River flooding, the $30 million deficit will soon be erased.
Fort Smith officials permitted $17.031 million projects during the first half of June, well ahead of the $10.239 million permitted for all of June 2018. Following are some of the big projects permitted so far in June.
• $3.676 million for work at 901-911 Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith. Property owners Steve Clark, Rodney Ghan, Darrell Robinson and Phil White are renovating older structures into new retail, restaurant and living space.
• $2.21 million for repair and renovation work on Sykes operation and the Professional Building in the former Phoenix Village Mall property.
• $2.208 million for extensive dirt work at 8210 Phoenix Avenue, which is the southwest corner of the intersection Phoenix and Massard.
• $1.177 million for renovation at Morrison Elementary School on Newlon Road.
Also, residential roof and repair work permitted between June 9 and June 17 totaled more than $775,000.
Lance Beaty, owner of Fort Smith-based Beaty Capital Group which owns the former Phoenix Mall property, said the permitted work is to fix damage from the May 18 tornado that ripped through Fort Smith. More work will be required to fully restore the building, he said.
“You have to remember it’s just a huge building. We’re working through it, and working through the related (insurance) claims. … That’s ($2.21 million) just the start of the work,” Beaty told Talk Business & Politics.
Sandy Dixon, owner of Fort Smith-based Turn Key Construction Management, was awarded the Morrison Elementary work. She said the work includes remodeling and new mechanical and electrical upgrades.
“We’re already about two weeks ahead of schedule. But that’s what you have to do on these projects. For example, this is an 81-day project, so you have to show them (school officials) what you can do. … This is similar to what we did on the Chaffin (Junior High) remodel a few summers ago,” Dixon said.
Morrison is not the only school job for Dixon’s company. The Fort Smith Public School Board of Education on June 10 approved $64 million in contracts with three companies for significant new construction at Northside and Southside High Schools. Steve Sparling, project manager of the Vision 2023 High School projects, on behalf of the RFQ review committee, recommended awarding the Northside High School project to Conway-based Nabholz Construction and the Southside High School millage project to Turn Key Construction of Fort Smith and Baldwin & Shell Construction of Rogers as a joint venture.
The $64 million in work has yet to be permitted by the city.
Other work that could be permitted later this year include $8 million for New Theater work in downtown Fort Smith. Officials with 64.6 Downtown announced March 25 that renovation of the historic downtown theater would move into the construction phase in October with expected completion by December 2020 or January 2021.
REGIONAL BUILDING ACTIVITY RECAP
Combined total for the three cities
2018: $211.463 million
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
2018: $187.678 million
2017: $169.958 million
2016: $185.783 million
2015: $191.631 million
2014: $174.252 million
2013: $185.057 million
2012: $136.248 million