A surge in commercial and single-family residential home construction last month lifted the city's building permit valuation total out of the summer doldrums.
For September, the valuation of building permits was $6,905,340, up from $4,057,129 in August and the highest monthly total since spring, when the local construction industry was starting new projects at a rapid clip.
The September valuation total was in line with the level of new construction a year earlier, when the September total was $6,584,326. Valuation represents the estimated value of new construction but does not include land costs.
Gene Shaughnessy, the city's chief building inspector, said the higher valuation in September probably reflects an attempt by local contractors to get projects going before cold weather sets in.
"I think they like to have something out of the ground and framed up before we get into the winter months," he said.
RESIDENTIAL construction, which has been the boom sector for the building industry this year, was strong again in September. Permits for new single-family homes accounted for $3,155,339 of the month's valuation total.
Shaughnessy's office wrote 34 permits for new single-family homes during the month, the highest number since May.
The new-home market, which earlier this year had been targeting first-time buyers with homes generally priced below $75,000, also appeared to be moving up in price. Although a couple of September single-family permits had valuations below $50,000, the average valuation was $92,804.
Shaughnessy said he could cite no one reason why single-family housing, which had slowed after chugging along throughout last year's mild winter and the spring building season, was again on the upswing.
"It's supply and demand. Evidently (builders) are selling them," he said of new homes.
THE LOCAL construction industry also got a boost in September from commercial construction. The largest single permit issued during the month was to Wal-Mart for the site work and installation of underground utilities for the 122,000-square-foot store the retailer is building at 3300 Iowa. That permit's valuation was $1,554,221.
Shaughnessy said he expects to issue a separate permit for the construction of the actual store building but doesn't know yet what the valuation on that permit is likely to run.
The valuation total for the first nine months of 1992 $55,515,352 brought the local construction industry within striking distance of the total for all of 1991, which was $58,753,218.
"If we have an average month (in October) we should surpass that," Shaughnessy said.
As annual valuation totals go, Lawrence hit its all-time high with $75.7 million in 1988. Shaughnessy said it was possible, with the remaining Wal-Mart permit and permits for at least two strip shopping centers developers say they'll begin building this year, that the 1992 total could come close to the record.
"We have the potential of getting back into the '70s," he said. "We're having what would be called an exceptional year."