Regional building permits down more than 26% in January

Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire and presented by Fort Smith-based Benefit Bank. Other supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The value of building permits in Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren were a combined $9.469 million in January, down 26.52% compared to January 2013.

The month's building permit totals are rare in the fact that Van Buren's valuations were higher than Fort Smith's, with the city logging $4.655 million on 30 building permits to Fort Smith's $4.631 million based on 129 permits. It is the start of what could be a good year for Van Buren as several projects are planned for the city.

And while Fort Smith's northern neighbor has started the year with the bang, the first month of the 2014 started off slower for the three combined cities than the brisk year that concluded Dec. 31, 2013, where the three cities saw a combined increase of 29.06% in building permit valuations over the 12 month period.

FORT SMITH
The city of Fort Smith issued 129 permits during January with a total value of $4.631 million, a decrease in value of 49.17% from 2013's valuation of $9.11 million.

The city's valuations were largely driven by residential construction, with $1.821 million in permits issued for seven new homes.

Commercial construction, including additions, demolitions, new construction and remodels, only accounted for a cumulative total of $1.259 million during January.

GREENWOOD
Fort Smith's southern neighbor reported considerably lower valuations, as well, with only three building permits issued totaling $182,960. Greenwood's valuation for last month is a drop of 87.3% in January 2013, when the city issued $1.441 million in permits, including more than $600,000 for residential construction.

VAN BUREN
The city directly north of Van Buren posted a rare month of higher valuations than Fort Smith, largely driven by the issuance of a $4 million building permit for the new alzheimer's unit at Legacy Heights Retirement Center.

In total, the city issued $4.655 million in permits last month, a 99.55% increase from January 2013 when the city issued $2.333 million in building permits.

Had Legacy Heights not applied for the permit, the city would have posted the worst decline of the three cities, having only issued $655,400 in building permits. It would have represented a 71.91% decline in permit values.

The expansion of Legacy Heights is just one of the large projects either currently underway or planned for the city in 2014. CVS Pharmacy was issued a permit in December 2013 for a new $1.283 million store, currently under construction at the intersection of Rena Road and Fayetteville Road. Plans are also underway to permit the construction of the city's new police station at the site of the former Sherman's Grocery store, further down Fayetteville Road.

Additionally, the site of a former truck stop and used car dealership at the intersection of Fayetteville Road and Interstate 40 has been purchased, with Mayor Bob Freeman having said the site will be used for a semi-truck dealership, though no firm date for opening has been set.

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2013 RECAP
Combined values in the three cities during 2013 were $203.037 million, compared to $157.32 million during 2012. The 2013 value is above the $201.079 million in 2011.

Fort Smith closed 2013 with the largest share of valuations, logging $177.687 million (a one-year increase of about 30.24% from $136.428 million in 2012), while Van Buren was the next largest with $17.067 million (a one-year increase of 38.96% from $12.282 million in 2012). Greenwood posted an additional $8.283 million, the only city to show a decrease from the previous year's total of $8.609 million (a decrease of 3.79%).

The gains in the Fort Smith market were largely from industrial construction projects at Chaffee Crossing, the construction of Mercy's new orthopedic hospital along Phoenix Avenue and various municipal construction projects across the city.

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