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.
Fireworks, apparently, weren't the only things exploding in July. A new report out of Lawrence City Hall shows construction activity in the city was booming, too.
City officials issued building permits for a whopping $39.7 million worth of projects in July, the highest monthly total in at least three years. The numbers are creating new optimism at City Hall.
"It looks like Lawrence's growth is back," City Manager David Corliss said recently when summarizing the report. "That's good to see."
The numbers, though, aren't yet clear-cut evidence that private sector spending has fully bounced back. About $17.2 million worth of the projects were government or publicly funded projects. A $10.5 million building permit for the long-talked-about Rock Chalk Park recreation center was the largest public project of the month. But officials also issued a $6.6 million permit for the expansion of the Bioscience and Technology Incubator on Kansas University's West Campus.
For the year, about $28.7 million worth of projects, or about a third of all the new construction projects in the city, have been publicly funded. The library expansion, at about $9 million in permits thus far for 2013, has been the other major publicly funded project. (As a reminder, construction that happens on the main campus of KU is not included in these numbers. KU isn't required to get a city building permit for those projects. The numbers also don't include the millions of dollars being spent to build new roads at the Farmland site and elsewhere because such excavation work doesn't require a building permit.)
The impact of public spending in the construction industry has been significant compared to past years. In 2012, the city issued $8.9 million worth of permits for publicly funded projects. In 2011, the total was $7.9 million. It is as if public entities, with the help of the voters, in the case of the library, have banded together to create their own stimulus program.
There certainly are signs that private sector construction spending is starting to follow suit. The largest project of the month was a private one: the long-talked-about Marriott hotel and retail building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. Construction permits for the project totaled $13.8 million.
The housing market, though, may have local economy watchers as optimistic as anything. The city issued permits for 20 single family homes in July. That was the second month this year that the city had issued 20 or more single family permits. Not once in 2011 or 2012 did the city issue 20 or more permits in a month. For the year, the city has issued 107 permits for single family or duplex homes. With five more months left in 2013, those totals almost exceed the totals for all of 2012, when 126 permits were issued.
Here are some other year-to-date numbers through July:
• The total construction value for the year is at $114.9 million, up 89 percent from the same period in 2012 and up 117 percent from the same period in 2011.
• While there was no new apartment construction in July, it has been a busy year for the sector thus far. The city has issued permits for 374 units in 2013, up from 184 during the same time period in 2012 and 64 during the same time period in 2011.