Building activity in the Fort Smith metro declined again in June with the area’s three biggest cities reporting a combined $11.87 million in building permit values. That is down 8.36% from the $12.95 million in May and 22% from the $14.49 million value in June 2020.
With a second slower month in a row, year-to-date numbers for the first half of the year also are lower than last year. The region’s year-to-date permit value total of $157.89 million is down 5.5% from the $167.09 million through the end of June 2020.
Fort Smith issued 237 permits in June with a value of $11.181 million, a 31% increase from the $8.53 million value of 151 permits issued by the city in May but down 7.14% from the $12.04 million value of the 193 permits issued in June 2020. Fort Smith’s building permits for the first half of the year totals $135.27 million, down 8.5% from the $147.84 million in the first six months of 2020.
On the residential side building in June, Fort Smith issued 38 permits for new construction with a value of $5.23 million, up 929% from the $508,300 value of three permits for new home construction issued in April and 209% from the $1.69 million value in new residential construction permits issued in June 2020.
For the second month in a row, Fort Smith did not issue any permits for new commercial construction in June. By comparison, the city issued permits for new commercial construction valuing $7.13 million in June 2020.
The largest commercial construction permit issued in June was an $800,000 permit issued to the City of Fort Smith for an inclusive playground at the city’s 51-acre park at 3700 Riverfront Drive. Funded by the special 1/8% sales tax for Fort Smith Parks, the inclusive playground will “allow children of all abilities and developmental stages to play in the same space while creating a nurturing environment for all,” a Facebook post by the city said.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved a master plan for the 51-acre Riverfront Drive Sports Fields (commonly referred to as the 51 Acres) in 2016. The multiphase project started with the construction of two tournament-quality soccer fields and a gravel parking lot, said Sara Deuster, deputy director of Fort Smith Parks & Recreation.
A maintenance building also was constructed to house equipment for the maintenance of the city’s downtown parks and trails. In coordination with the Utilities Department, a waterline was also installed along the property, Deuster said. Phase II of the project is nearing completion. It consists of the construction of underground storm drainage improvements, laying of water pipe, paving of the parking lot and the placement of select fill material sufficient to construct an inclusive playground, pavilion, restrooms, and ADA baseball/softball field, she said.
The all-inclusive playground is the next phase, which will be followed by the construction of restrooms, a large pavilion, water feature, and additional sports fields.
“The specific sports fields will be determined based on citizen input. The restrooms are the next priority and are planned to be completed by March (2022) when our outdoor restrooms are reopened after being closed during the winter months,” Deuster said.
The initial budget cost for the playground was $800,000. However the parks department was able to add additional elements, including accessible sidewalks, fencing and shade, and have the budget still fall within the department’s budget that was approved by the Board in the FY21-FY25 Capital Improvement Plan, Deuster said. The cost of the playground is $1.4 and will be constructed by ACS Playground Adventures provided the contract is approved by the Board at their meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (July 6) at the Blue Lion, 101 N. Second St.
This will be Fort Smith’s first playground with rubber surfacing as opposed to wood fiber mulch. The rubber surfacing eliminates mobility challenges caused by uneven surfaces, sunken spots in the mulch, and difficult access areas, Deuster said. The playground will be fenced, following a recommendation by a citizen who has a child with autism.
“Fencing will allow this family to let their children play freely without fear of the child running away from the play area or into a busy parking lot/street,” she said.
All of the play structures will have both ramps and transfer platforms so children of all abilities can access the play structures. There also will be several ground-level interactive panels and panels along the ramp railing and play areas.
“These panels focus on a variety of disabilities, such as auditory and visual impairments,” Deuster said.
Shade canopies will cover the main play areas, and a ground-level musical station will feature multiple types of instruments. There also will be multiple climbing structures and slides, including a roller slide. Traditional belt swings, infant/toddler swings will accompany swings designed to provide proper back support for children who need it, Friendship Swings where parents and children can swing together while facing each other and two wheelchair accessible swings. The park also will feature two ZipKrooz lines, which mimic a zip line. One will have a traditional seat, and one will have an adaptive seat. The park is expected to be completed and open to the public by late October.
VAN BUREN, GREENWOOD TOTALS
Van Buren, the region’s second largest city, issued 216 permits in June with a value of $575,100, a 79.3% drop from the $2.78 million value of 87 permits issued in May and a 57.08% drop from the $1.34 million value of 62 permits issued in June 2020. The monthly activity included $524,500 in residential building, down 77% from the $2.28 million in residential building in May and down 17.7% from the $637,401 in residential building June 2020.
There was $2,500 in commercial activity in the month, down 99.43% from the $440,000 in commercial activity last month and 99.6% from the $648,000 in commercial activity in June 2020. The majority of permits issued in June by Van Buren were for roofing. Van Buren’s permit totals through June were $17.465 million, 24.2% higher than the $14.07 million in the first six months of 2020.
Greenwood issued 9 permits in June with a value of $111,946, a 93.18% decrease from the $1.642 million value of 20 permits issued in May and an 89.9% decrease from the $1.105 million value of eight permits issued in June 2020. For the first half of the year, Greenwood has had $5.106 million in building permit valuations, down 1.35% from the $5.176 million in the first six months of 2020.
The three cities ended 2020 with $264.757 million in permitted building activity, a 9.52% increase over the $241.741 million in 2019. The gain came mostly from Fort Smith, as Van Buren and Greenwood showed drops in their building numbers from 2019.
REGIONAL BUILDING ACTIVITY RECAP
Combined total for the three cities
2020: $264.757 million
2019: $241.741 million
2018: $231.78 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