The Fort Smith metro area has seen continuous growth over the past several years, but no year has performed as well in building activity as 2021 with permit values topping $340 million. The gain was driven in large part by a more than 25% gain in Fort Smith.
Some of the gain in value of permitted activity during the year can be attributed to a higher cost to build than in past years because of the higher cost of supplies during the COVID 19 pandemic, but the three largest cities in the Fort Smith metro ended the year with a 29% higher value in permitted building activity than last year. Fort Smith, Van Buren and Greenwood had $343.289 million in permitted building activity through the year, a 29% increase over 2020’s $265.975 million, a 42% increase over 2019’s $241.741 million and a 48% increase from 2018’s $231.78 million in building activity.
All three of the larger cities in the Fort Smith region saw an increase in building numbers from 2020, and December’s building activity definitely gave a boost to those numbers. The region recorded $35.09 million in permitted activity in December, an 84% increase over the $19.06 million in permitted activity in December 2020. The month came in 127% higher than the combined value of $15.46 million of building permits issued by Fort Smith, Van Buren and Greenwood in November.
For the year, Fort Smith was up from the previous year by 25.7% with $294.279 million compared to $234.165 million in 2020. Fort Smith issued 157 permits in December with a value of $29.92 million, up 130% from the $12.998 million value of 155 permits issued in November and up 71.3% from the $17.47 million value of 167 permits issued in December 2020.
There were 18 permits issued for new residential construction in the month with a combined value of $3.155 million, down 15.4% from the $3.72 million combined value of 21 residential new construction permits in November and a 22% compared with December 2020.
But the commercial side showed major growth. The city issued seven new commercial construction permits in December with a value of $15.75 million, about three times more than the three new commercial projects permitted in November with a combined value of $5.218 million and more than eight times the $1.868 million value of two new commercial projects permitted in December 2020. December new commercial construction projects included an $8.237 million project by Mars Pet Care. In January 2021, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and officials with Mars Petcare were in Fort Smith announced a $145 million expansion of the company’s plant at Chaffee Crossing that will create more than 120 jobs.
Commercial projects also included the city of Fort Smith’s new pump station replacement project that includes a $3.86 million pump project at 5201 Riverfront Drive and a $2.819 million project at 2901 98th Circle.
“Things seem to be looking up with all the new residential subdivisions going in (in Fort Smith) and the amount of new residential/duplex construction as well as the amount of construction work happening at several industrial locations. 2022 looks like it could be another great year but we will just have to see,” said Jimmie Deer, director of building services for the city of Fort Smith.
VAN BUREN, GREENWOOD PROJECTS
Van Buren, the region’s second largest city, issued 63 permits in December with a value of $4.696 million, a 103% increase from the $2.31 million value of 82 permits issued in November and up 215% from the $1.491 million value of 66 permits issued in December 2020. The monthly activity included six residential construction permits with a value of $650,000, down 58.5% from the $1.565 million in residential construction in November and down 49% from the $1.29 million in residential construction in December 2020.
There were five permits for commercial construction issued in December with a combined value of $3.9 million, a huge jump from the $160,000 in commercial construction in November and the $90,000 in commercial construction in December 2020.
Included in those commercial construction projects was the $1.876 million Phase 2 project of the renovation of Van Buren High School’s Blakemore Field at 2202 Alma Blvd., by Beshears Construction that includes demolition of the old Izzard Elementary School, remodeling of a couple of the outbuildings for visitor’s dressing rooms and soccer team dressing rooms and finishing the parking lot, said David Martin, in the Van Buren planning department. The $2.34 million phase 1 of the project was permitted in February and included a new ticket and merchandise sales structure along with a visitor’s concession structure. A new $1.124 million Casey’s General Store at 2815 Alma Highway was also permitted during the month.
Van Buren ended the year with $38.56 million in permitted activity, up 77.4% from 2020’s total of $21.74 million.
Greenwood issued eight permits in December with a value of $477,841, up 216% from the $150,997 value of 15 permits issued in November and 377% from the $100,250 value of 18 permits issued in December 2020. The city ended the year with $10.45 million in permitted building activity, up 3.8% from the $10.07 million value of permitted construction projects in 2020.
REGIONAL BUILDING ACTIVITY RECAP
Combined total for the three cities
2021: $343.289 million
2020: $265.975 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