For Lawrence homebuilders, the rest of 2013 is gravy, or the icing on the cake, or the cherry on top, or . . . (No, I've got to quit before I eat my keyboard.)
The point is, with three months left in the year, Lawrence homebuilders already had built essentially the same number of houses as they did in all of 2012. The newest building report from Lawrence City Hall shows 122 single-family building permits had been issued through the end of September. For all of 2012, the city issued 123. Thus far, single-family home construction is up 35 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
When you add in duplex construction, the city already has surpassed the 2012 totals. Thus far the city has issued permits for 7 new duplexes compared to just three for all of 2012.
The big question now is whether construction totals will hit the $200 million mark for the year. That's a bit of a stretch goal, but with the latest permit the city has topped the $150 million mark. The city is at $153.4 million during the first nine months, which is up 103 percent for the same period a year ago.
Credit massive projects like Rock Chalk Park, the city's recreation center and the Lawrence Public Library expansion for a good portion of the increase. About 24 percent of all the construction activity in the city, measured by permit value, has been publicly funded projects. Just for comparison's sake, during the same time period in 2011 about 9 percent of all construction in the city was publicly funded and about 5 percent in 2012.
There have been some large private sector projects, though. The Marriott TownPlace Hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire is $13.8 million, the two apartment complexes west of Walmart on Sixth Street total about $17.5 million and renovation work to accommodate more production at the Hallmark Cards plant has totaled about $4.5 million.
We'll see how 2013 finishes and what's in store for 2014. I was surprised to hear a projection recently from an economist at Wichita State University that Lawrence home-building totals would be stagnant or decline slightly in 2014. The economist with the WSU Center for Real Estate told the Lawrence Board of Realtors last week that he thinks the new home construction market may slow a bit because banks are still hesitant to provide financing for homes built on speculation. We'll see.
In other news and notes from around town:
• There's a clear sign that at least one builder in town is expecting good things for the future. A-Team Home Improvement is investing in a new shop and headquarters space. Perhaps you have noticed a significant renovation underway at the old schoolhouse-looking building below the 23rd Street overpass across from Haskell Indian Nations University. A-Team Home Improvement has signed a lease to take over the 1,800-square-foot space at 506 E. 23rd St.
Alan Rector, owner of A-Team, said business has been going well and he jumped at the chance to put his formerly home-based business in a more visible location. Plans call for a good part of the building to be devoted to showroom space for kitchen, bath and other renovation products. Rector hopes to have the project finished by the end of the month.
The renovation project also is giving a bit of a facelift to one of the older buildings along 23rd Street. The building was a school decades ago. It was known as the India School.
• The building is owned by a group led by longtime Lawrence landlord George Paley. Paley has projects all over town, but one that is drawing attention is his plans for the former La Parrilla space at 815 Massachusetts St. (La Parrilla moved up the block, if you recall.) Paley tells me plans are moving along to bring a new restaurant into the space, but he said he's still not at liberty to tell me who the operators will be or what style of restaurant is planned. What I have heard from reliable sources is that a local operator will be involved, but the speculation that the space will house a new venture by Lawrence restaurateur Robert Krause is inaccurate. Perhaps we won't have to wait too much longer to find out. Work is underway at the site.