The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 05, 2018 1:00 am

Construction in county best in past 5 years

$1 billion mark in permits hit again


For the second straight year, Allen County has issued more than $1 billion in construction permits, county officials announced at a news conference Tuesday morning.

As of Nov. 29, officials said, permits for new buildings, building repairs and remodeling totaled $1.015 billion – on pace to reach or surpass the $1.032 billion total for all of 2017.

The billion-dollar mark was reached several days sooner than last year, officials said.

Officials said the number of permits issued has lagged slightly – 25,230 as of Nov. 29, compared with 26,185 by the end of last year. But 2018 is still shaping up as the best year for construction in the last five years, said John Caywood, county building department commissioner.

He told The Journal Gazette he expects this year's numbers to continue to rise as the industry scrambles to beat cost uncertainties contractors might face in 2019.

By Tuesday, permit values already had reached $1.022 billion, Caywood said after the announcement. “Lately, we're doing about $2.2 million (in permit value) a day,” he said.

The permit statistics include both commercial and residential construction. Apartments, including multifamily senior living developments, are considered commercial permits even though the result is residential space.

Statistics showing how permit totals within the city compare with the rest of Allen County were not presented. 

According to building department compilations, the number of commercial permits through Nov. 29 – 6,339 – was above the 6,253 commercial permits issued in all of 2017. The number of residential permits, however, was down slightly from last year's year-end numbers – 18,981 were issued through Nov. 29, compared to 19,998 by the end of 2017.

However, the value of those residential permits was up, even when compared to all of 2017 –  $428.4 million as opposed to $399.1 million, an increase of about $28 million, or about 7 percent.

Commercial permit value was down – $586.8 million through Nov. 29 from $632.9 million for all of 2017, about 8 percent.

Caywood said the residential dollar amounts were consistent with cost increases for materials such as lumber and steel and a tight labor market.

The commercial cost decrease might reflect an increasing number of commercial permits for remodeling that might not suffer the same increases for materials, he said. Local commercial remodeling permits are up about 20 percent from previous years, Caywood said.

Officials pointed to several large endeavors by Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools, Lutheran Hospital and Lincoln Financial as playing into the commercial statistics.

The residential statistics were aided by residential development projects including Aslan Passage, Whisper Rock, Fox Hollow, Greyhawk and Magnolia Meadows. 

Keeping up with all the activity has been “a challenge,” Caywood said.

But the department has been able to meet demand through technological improvements, he said  Now, about 49 percent of permits are processed online, up from 28.3 percent five years ago, Caywood said.

Also, new-project meetings with staff members of the Department of Planning Services help ensure the permitting process goes smoothly, he said.

“And we have a very willing contractor base here to work with, and that's a reason we're hitting a billion dollars two years in a row,” he said. 

Republican County Commissioner President Therese Brown agreed. “To hit it two years in a row is astounding,” she said.

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