It was the year of the hotel, not apartments, in Lawrence; a look at 2017 building facts and figures
Let’s put the final nail in 2017 building activity in Lawrence. No, I promise, this does not involve me actually having a hammer. (You have one deck collapse like the stock market, and suddenly everybody gets nervous.) Instead, I’ve got the final statistics on the millions of dollars worth of building activity that took place in the city.
The city has released its building permit totals for 2017. The summary is that 2017 was a good year but was down from the historic highs of the last two years. The city issued permits for $165.9 million worth of projects in 2017. That’s down about 25 percent from the $220 million in projects in 2016 and down even more sharply from the $227 million in 2015. However, it is worth noting that the 2015 total was an all-time high for the city. The $165 million mark still ranks as one of the better years of this decade. Here’s a look:
• 2017: $165.9 million
• 2016: $220.8 million
• 2015: $227.8 million
• 2014: $99.7 million
• 2013: $171.9 million
• 2012: $100.6 million
• 2011: $115.7 million
• 2010: $101.8 million
• 2009: $75.3 million.
But 2017 may be most notable for what didn’t happen: There wasn’t a surge of new permits issued for apartment construction. In fact, 2017 is the only year this decade that the city issued more permits for single family home construction than apartment construction. The city issued permits for only eight living units of apartments, while issuing permits for 172 single-family and duplex homes. That’s the sort of fact you can use to win a bar bet, if you go to really boring bars. Regardless, single-family and duplex construction showed some positive signs in 2017. For much of this decade, an up year in single-family construction has been followed by a down year. That trend was broken in 2017, and the year finished with the second-best total of the decade. Here’s a look:
• 2017: 172 permits
• 2016: 171 permits
• 2015: 239 permits
• 2014: 116 permits
• 2013: 165 permits
• 2012: 126 permits
• 2011: 99 permits
• 2010: 156 permits
• 2009: 126 permits
But if you think 2017 is a sign that Lawrence’s apartment boom is over, think again. It is like the plumbing project I did last weekend. Sometimes the work pauses while you go to the hardware store to get more duct tape. Apartment construction was just on pause in 2017. Plans already have been filed for more than 800 new bedrooms of apartments in Lawrence for 2018. If anything, we may want to watch whether 2018 challenges the recent high set in 2016 when the city issued permits for 1,205 apartment units.
If 2017 wasn’t the year of the apartment, then what was it? I would say the year of the hotel (and that’s not just because we needed a room after the duct tape didn’t hold well.) Instead, three of the top 10 largest projects in the city were hotels. Between the Best Western Plus hotel near Rock Chalk Park, the Country Inn & Suites on East 23rd Street, and the Tru by Hilton near Sixth and Wakarusa, the city is adding about 280 hotel rooms to its inventory. That’s about a 20 percent increase in the number of hotel rooms in the city. Here’s a look at the top 10 projects of the year, ranked by dollar value:
• Best Western Plus, 6101 Rock Chalk Drive: $10.7 million
• USD 497 Maintenance complex, 711 E. 23rd St.: $4.9 million
• Tru by Hilton, 510 Wakarusa Drive: $4 million
• Country Inn & Suites, 2176 E. 23rd St.: $3.9 million
• Connect Church, 3351 W. 31st St.: $3.6 million
• City of Lawrence water storage tanks, 1220 Oread Ave.: $3.5 million
• St. John Church addition, 1208 Kentucky St.: $3 million
• Bioscience and Technology Business Center renovation, 2029 Becker Drive: $2.8 million
• Boys & Girls Club center, 2910 Haskell Ave.: $2.8 million
• Office and lab addition for U.S. Geological Survey, 1217 Biltmore: $2.4 million.
Here is one interesting thing to note about that list: At least six of the 10 projects are ones that won’t pay property taxes on their new construction because they are either owned by governments, nonprofit entities or churches. That is an issue in Lawrence. Lots of real estate isn’t on the tax rolls, and government projects are some of the larger ones in town some years.
Expect that trend to continue in 2018. This could be a massive year for Lawrence construction because of all the work that will get underway with the school bond projects. Between those projects and the already announced apartment projects, could Lawrence top the $250 million mark in construction for the first time?
I don’t know, but as a man with a lot of duct tape would say, stick around to find out.