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Building activity strong in Fort Smith region, up 50.9% in first quarter

The value of building permits in Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren were a combined $24.913 million in March, up 203.96% compared to $8.196 million in March 2013.

For the first three months of 2013, permits for the three cities totaled $41.787 million, up 50.9% compared to the $27.691 million during the same period in 2013.

FORT SMITH
The city of Fort Smith issued 191 permits during the month of March, nearly even with the same month last year, but the permit values totaled $20.410 million last month, up 197.7% compared to $6.856 million during the same period last year.

The primary driver of Fort Smith's higher totals was the $13.3 million building permit issued for the new Mill Creek Wastewater Pump Station, located at 210 Navy Road.

Another large project pushing totals higher is an expansion at Darby Junior High, valued at $1.674 million, as well as a $1.1 million permit issued for a new immigration office at 4624 Kelley Highway. The Kelley Highway site is the former home of what is now known as KNWA-TV and its now shuttered Fort Smith newsroom. The station consolidated newsroom operations to its Fayetteville newsroom in 2006 when Oklahoma City-based Griffin Communications sold the station to Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting, leaving the former television station mostly unoccupied since that time.

In addition to the three large commercial projects, the city of Fort Smith issued 120 residential building permits worth $1.641 million, a drop from March 2013 when the city issued 125 permits worth $2.525 million.

GREENWOOD
A total of six permits were issued for the city of Greenwood in March, totaling $373,676. That represents a 43.66% decrease from the same period in 2013, which saw $663,300 in permits.

VAN BUREN
The city of Van Buren saw an increase of 510.75% from $676,000 in March 2013 to $4.129 million last month. The higher values in the city last month was largely due to construction of the city's new police headquarters, which is being constructed at the former Sherman's Grocery site. The new police station has an estimated value of $3.567 million.

Other construction in the city was relatively minor, with a spattering of permits issued across various categories, including four permits worth $89,000 for residential remodels, the second largest category after commercial construction.

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.

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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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