Jodelle Greiner/Register: Approximately 200 people attended the ribbon-cutting for the Brookings Commercial Kitchen at 420 Main Ave. The kitchen was one of many construction projects that took place in the city last year. City Engineer Jackie Lanning said the city of Brookings issued 560 building permits with a total valuation near $50 million in 2019.

The city of Brookings saw 560 building permits and almost $50 million in total construction value in 2019, according to City Engineer Jackie Lanning.

That includes residential and non-residential construction, she said. The total for 2018 was 469 permits.

“So overall, we did have about 100 more total number of (building) permits for the year,” Lanning said.

The total number of building permits has been in the 400s for several years. The only time it’s been listed higher was in 2012, when it was 552 total permits.

The total value of building permits for 2019 was $48,806,173; the total for 2018 was $41,114,715.

Breaking down the numbers

Lanning broke down the 2019 residential numbers:

• 72 new single-family homes for $12.7 million;

• 1 townhouse with four units for $387,700;

• 3 duplexes with six units for $717,774; and

• 2 apartment buildings with 91 units total. The 72-unit building has a valuation of $4.7 million and the 19-unit building has a valuation of $1.434 million.

“Our residential value was higher than the year before. We had a little over $22 million in residential value, where the year before was about $19.8 million,” Lanning said.

The numbers may look a bit different this year because they added a couple categories, said Jared Thomas, building services administrator.

“This year, we included our driveway permits, and another one under the residential one is foundation only … a newer permit that we created, and previously we hadn’t reported the driveway permits,” Thomas said.

“So right off the bat, it looks 40 (driveway) permits higher than before,” Lanning said. Those driveway permits totaled $60,600.

There were 15 permits for foundation only, which totaled $206,000.

“Even if you remove the driveway permits, which we haven’t historically reported, or these foundation-only permits, we’re still – I think that left us at 506 permits for the year, which is one of our better years on history,” Thomas said.

There was one new multi-family construction with 72 units for $4.5 million; 54 additions for $1.05 million; 72 remodels for $934,914; three mobile homes for $2,000; 38 accessory structures for $215,182; and 196 maintenance projects (siding, window, roof) for $1.35 million.

“I think it was probably our second most active year,” Lanning said.

Some construction projects combine residential and commercial, like the renovation at 420 Main Ave., “where they were building on top of the old Ben Franklin building,” Thomas said. The Brookings Commercial Kitchen is on the first floor. The added stories above it have 19 dwelling units.

“It’s really great when we can add rentals downtown,” Lanning said. “Just for services, you know when we have businesses and restaurants for the tenants.”

Commercial projects

Thomas listed some commercial construction, including 3M’s big office addition, which was about $3.4 million; and the Ben Franklin renovation at 420 Main Ave., which was about $1.4 million.

Some projects have exempt fee permits, “ones that are usually partially funded by the city,” Thomas said. 

“So those projects had $13 million value, which goes in our valuation, but we don’t receive a building permit fee for that,” Lanning said. 

“The big one there was Mickelson Middle School, has an almost $10.5 million worth of additions and renovations for this bid package,” Thomas said.

“The hospital also fit out their medical office building. The second floor of that, which was a $1.7 million project,” Thomas said.

Brookings Municipal Utilities is installing a water tower on Fourth Street after taking down the Tin Man water tower last summer. That project will run about $1.3 million, Thomas said.

There is a 72-unit apartment building on 20th Street South that came in with a valuation of about $4.5 million, he added.

Fixed up vs new

One thing Lanning noted from their statistics is the 72 remodels. 

“Still see a pretty strong remodeling effort where folks are probably working on their own home instead of buying a new one or building one,” she said.

She said they will be breaking down the numbers into more detailed statistics for next year, so they can see just how many driveways, remodels, accessory structures, and garages and sheds there are.

Additions include decks and three-season porches, Thomas said. Some people convert decks into three-season porches for “a little more usable space,” Lanning added.

That’s not to say there isn’t a fair amount of shiny, new construction in town.

In 2019, there were 10 new commercial buildings, 10 additions, and 37 remodels, Thomas said.

“In the valuation, you have $5 million; the valuations on just the additions was higher than the new valuations, which is really a great trend … because you’re re-using buildings and land versus building new. That whole recycling, revitalization effort is good to see, too,” Lanning said.

Direction of growth

It’s no surprise which way Brookings is growing: the trend has been to the south and it’s staying that way. 

“We’ve seen a little bit in Prairie Hills (which) has seen a lot of action this last year,” Thomas said.

Other areas seeing growth are the Fox Run Addition, Arbor Hill Addition, the area south of 20th Street South and Medary, the Timberline Addition, and Christie Heights.

“It’s really spread out,” Thomas said.

Remodeling is happening all over, he added.

“A lot of the remodels that we do see are new houses that were purchased where they want to finish a bedroom in the basement,” Thomas said. 

“Or you’ll buy your home with the unfinished basement and then build equity later,” Lanning said. “Again, a lot of repurposing of properties and it increases the value of that home and neighborhood aesthetics.”

Good for Brookings

What does all this construction mean for Brookings?

“I’d say it still means we have a strong economy. … It’s great to see building growth because we have increased sales tax and users, and hopefully new residents and growth. It just shows that Brookings has a pretty strong economy, I believe,” Lanning said.

“Hopefully that is reflected on sales tax and school district numbers, employees and that kind of thing,” she added.

Lanning had her eye on another economic indicator, too.

“We have the Census this year,” she noted. “It’ll be great information to see at the end of that effort how we’re growing.”

Unpredictable

“We really had a very strong year,” Lanning said.

“It really started slow and finished strong,” Thomas added. “This time last year, we didn’t know where we were gonna be. But it ended up as one of our better years. Our highest valued years, anyway.”

Lanning pointed out it was not because of higher fees; “it was the same fees.”

They can never tell at this time of year how the rest of the year will go. In mid-February this year, they had 20-some permits, which wouldn’t bode well for the rest of the year, but there’s still plenty of time for contractors to line up projects.

Weather plays a huge part in their success, too.

“If we get a good fall, that pushes a lot of contractors (who) are always trying to get work, so they can work on it through the winter,” Thomas said.

There aren’t any big projects coming up yet, but the year’s still young, Lanning pointed out.

If history is any indicator, there’s no need to worry.

“Brookings is pretty lucky, where we haven’t had big downturns,” Lanning said. With South Dakota State University and the industries, there’s always a need for employees, which fires the need for places to live. 

“We’ve had pretty steady growth, I think, in our residential side,” Thomas said. “Our commercial … I would say we’re steady.

“Excited to see what this year brings, for sure,” he added.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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