Value of new construction high as building permits at 10-year low

By Ned Seaton

Due to a steep drop in the construction of new apartment complexes, the number of building permits issued in Manhattan in 2013 fell to its lowest level in a decade.

At the same time, some large projects meant that the amount of property value constructed was actually the third-highest ever.

Those numbers emerge from year-end data produced by the city government’s code services office, which issues building permits.

There were 451 building permits issued in 2013 in Manhattan, including everything from alteration and demolition permits to the construction of big new commercial buildings.

That total was down from 469 in 2012, and down by a whopping 38 percent from the 728 permits issued in the boom year of 2006.

Brad Claussen, the city’s building official, said the drop-off was due to the relatively low number of apartments built here. There were 75 apartment units built in 2013, down from for instance, 179 in 2012 and 315 in 2011.

Claussen said he didn’t know, but he guessed that developers “are just kind of being prudent” about developing more apartments since there have been so many built in recent years.

Claussen did say that he expects more than 70 apartment units to be permitted in the next couple of months, so things could be bouncing back a bit. Among those: the next phase of Scenic Woods on the east side of Scenic Drive.

Single-family home construction stayed relatively steady in 2013, with 173 new homes built, Claussen said.

That’s a fairly typical number, he said, toward the lower end of the normal range.

He expected single-family home development to bump upward this year, with new homes in Highland Meadows Unit 7, Miller Ranch Unit 5, areas in Colbert Hills, the Congressional Addition, the Interlochen Addition, new areas of Lee Mill Heights, and the North Lake Addition.

While the number of permits dropped in 2013, the total amount of property value created was $119.9 million, which was up from $90.5 million in 2012. The only years on record with higher totals were 2010 with $183.1 million and 2006 in $126.4 million.

The 2010 number was goosed by school improvement projects funded by a voter-approved bond issue, Claussen noted.

Some of the big 2013 projects that bumped the valuation total higher included the Kansas Department of Agriculture headquarters building, the new Civic Plus building, the Bluemont Hotel, and the Blue Earth Place building south of downtown.

Claussen also said that Manhattan compares favorably to many other communities around Kansas in terms of building activity.

And he noted that while apartment construction tailed off, it still compares favorably to what was happening in the mid-1990s, when there were two years in a row with zero apartment built.

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