© 2018-Brookings Register

BROOKINGS – The City of Brookings issued more building permits in 2017 than in 2016, but the total value was down $14 million, according to the city’s Engineering & Community Development office.The explanation for the discrepancy is simple: People are still building stuff, just not big expensive undertakings.

“We saw a lot of remodeling, smaller type projects, so people may be deciding instead of building a new home to remodel their existing home,” said Jackie Lanning, city engineer.

The number of building permits issued in 2017 was 488, compared to 451 in 2016, according to Lanning. Brookings hit a high of 552 permits in 2012, and the annual total has hovered in the 450s since 2014.

The total valuation of 2017’s permits was $38.7 million, while the total valuation of 2016’s permits was $52.7 million, she added. Total valuation hit $58 million in 2013 and 2015, and dropped to $48 million in 2014.

Behind the numbers

“We’ve been on a little bit of a downward trend on the last couple years. That might be related to a number of factors,” Lanning said.

One of the factors is the type of construction.

“Most of the houses that are getting built, they probably have a higher percentage of custom homes this year, versus just regular spec homes,” said Jared Thomas, building services administrator.

Custom homes are built specifically for someone who’s paying for it; spec homes are built by the contractor in the hopes they could sell them to a homeowner later, Lanning explained.

“When the market is a little bit slower, they have to wait to sell them and then they have all their investment tied into that house,” Lanning said.

“We had a handful (this year); but there wasn’t many,” said Greg Pearson, engineering and building services technician. “A lot of contractors that were doing spec house building are doing a lot of work in Aurora and Volga right now.”

That growth in Volga and Aurora is another thing that factors into Brookings’ construction numbers, Pearson said, as well as a lack of affordable housing lots being available, Lanning said.

“This year, we’re hoping that more lots become available to people, which may grow those single-family figures,” she said.

“You can get a lot (in the smaller towns) for $23,000,” Pearson said.

“To build a spec house, they can have a cheaper lot, they can build a house for under $200,000 and that $200,000 seems to be kind of a price break when they talk about affordable housing for a new single family, so they’re able to do that,” Thomas said.

That helps young families without a lot of money to spend, Thomas said, but both he and Pearson pointed out the smaller towns don’t have the amenities and infrastructure Brookings has, so it’s a trade-off.

Residential numbers

The construction is split between residential and commercial, the three said.

Constructed in 2017 were 54 single-family homes, five townhouses and five new apartment buildings, for a total of 22 apartment units. There were no duplexes, Lanning said.

The total valuation for the residential construction was $16.89 million, Pearson said.

A big part of the numbers are the housing developments springing up in town.

“We do have some developments that have been starting,” Lanning said, including south of Camelot Intermediate School, in Arbor Hills, Prairie Hills, West Timberline, Christy Springs, Moriarty Heights, and Bluegill Addition; as well as row houses on Christine Circle, Pearson added.

One unusual construction note is the passive house built by South Dakota State University at 902 Third Ave. in Brookings. It’s the only one of its type in town, Pearson added.

New houses mean constructing new streets, plotting lots, and developing infrastructure, Lanning said.

Most of the residential construction continues to take place in south and southwest Brookings, Thomas and Lanning said. That follows the trend of the past several years.

Commercial numbers

While residential goes south and southwest, commercial trends toward the other direction, they said.

“Most of the commercial stuff is gonna be on the north and northeast corner of Brookings,” Thomas said.

There were 64 commercial projects with a total valuation of $21 million.

“Ten of those permits were additions and 18 were brand-new buildings. Several were remodels, as well,” Lanning said.

“I think our commercial numbers were down,” Lanning said.

“Over the last few years, we’ve had several big projects that kind of really peaked us at our commercial valuations,” Thomas said. “So it’s pretty standard this year, and we had some pretty decent projects that came in.”

One of the largest was the Avera Clinic renovation that cost $3.6 million.

“They did a complete overhaul almost of the whole facility, and it was a phased project,” Thomas said.

Comfort Suites added on a convention center to the tune of $3.6 million.

“All the concrete work is done, and utilities and their building package is ordered and they’re waiting on that to get here before we’ll start to see that going up,” Thomas said.

Millborn Seeds moved into its new construction on 32nd Avenue recently. The total cost was $3.6 million, as well.

“The initial permitting started in 2016 with footings and foundations, but the majority of it was permitted in 2017 and completed,” Thomas said.

“There’s a big addition on the GracePoint Wesleyan Church on Orchard Drive. It’s enclosed now, but they’re working on the interior stuff on that,” Thomas said. The project cost $2.6 million.

Other projects are the South Main Fire Station being built by the city for $1.3 million and Brookings Biospace’s new testing lab building on 32nd Avenue for $1.15 million.

“That’s kind of it for our over-the-million-dollar-mark,” Thomas said.

Future trends

Although the year is young, things have already started moving.

“We already issued our first home permit for this year. That’s out in Arbor Hills,” Pearson said.

“Maybe we’ll continue to see growth around the Dakota Prairie School. I think that area will continue to grow, especially as more lots come online,” Lanning said, figuring the younger families with elementary age children will want to be close to the school.

Another trend she sees is older people moving from older homes to newer construction, thus freeing older homes for purchase, as well.

Lanning is expecting more commercial construction in the future.

“We could see more potential growth in the Brookings Marketplace area as well. That continues to be marketed; we’ll see growth in that area. One company comes in and others will branch off,” she said.

Another project is the Lofts on Sixth Street, which Lanning sees as the wave of the future.

“I think what we’ll see, too, is a trend in the future for multi-use type facilities, where you blend commercial activity and retail, along with housing,” she said.

The comprehensive plan will set the tone to increase density and function of buildings, “so I think we’ll continue to see more multi-use type facilities. That’s kind of a new trend for Brookings. The multi-use buildings we have in Brookings seem to have worked out really well and are popular, so I imagine we’ll see more of that type of growth,” Lanning said.

She’s hopeful when looking forward.

“We’re always optimistically looking forward to the next year on steady growth. The figures from 2017, even though they were lower than the last couple years, still show that we do have growth in Brookings,” Lanning said.

“People are still building new homes, so that opportunity is always there. Commercial growth is hard to predict,” she said.

“We hear from contractors that they are busy: our building contractors are busy, our roadway contractors have stayed busy, which are all good signs of growing the community,” Lanning said.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

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