2012 A Good Year for Building Activity

2013-02-01 14:58:01

Yuma’s city building officials and inspectors are busy and they figure that’s a very good thing for the community.

It means that construction activity in the city is starting to pick up and showing some recovery as the sluggishness continues to linger after the real estate bust and the Great Recession.

That’s true for both residential and commercial construction, noted Randy Crist, city of Yuma building official.

The residential building activity here reflects what is happening nationwide. While housing starts still haven’t reached the levels of healthier markets, home builders in Yuma and across the nation finished 2012 as their best year since the early stages of the housing crisis.

Last year in Yuma, permits were issued for 207 single-family detached homes and 31 attached homes for a total of 238 new single-family homes, Crist reported.

“That’s 91 percent more than 2011,” Crist observed. And it’s definitely the most since the boom collapsed.

The most active housing subdivisions were Livingston Ranch and the projects being built by Hall Brothers, including the townhomes on the eastern edge of the city, Crist said. There’s also some very large custom homes built or under construction near Emerald Springs on the west side of the city.

“So it’s a nice mix,” he said. “Some nice entry-level homes and some large custom homes.”

In addition, a 29-unit apartment complex, Palo Verde Villas, was constructed to house farmworkers on the longtime former site of Chretin’s.

As another measure of the 2012 upswing in construction activity in the city, it was the first time since the economic crash that total valuation for building projects exceeded $100 million, Crist said. The last time was in 2007.

“It’s kind of a milestone.”

In contrast to most years when commercial and residential activity tend to be counter-cyclical, both were busy in 2012, he said.

The commercial building activity was across several sectors.

Yuma Regional Medical Center continues to be a big player in health care construction, with plans for two major projects: its cancer center and a new, much larger Emergency Department, Crist said. And to pave the way for those two projects, the hospital has been pursuing other projects.

Construction of the third floor of the patient tower was completed last fall and opened in December just in time for the busy winter season. Meanwhile, the fifth floor is expected to be finished this month, completing the build-out of the tower.

Site work has begun on a 14,000-square-foot medical building in Tuscany Plaza that will be leased by YRMC for among other services its children’s health clinic that now occupies a portion of the hospital identified as the future site for the new ED.

Other health care projects include the new Yuma Gastro office, the VA clinic at the Big Curve Shopping Center and various medical offices.

The city is winding up a couple of its own projects. A new fire station off Giss Parkway at 3rd Avenue to replace the aging Fire Station 1 is expected to be finished this month, and the new police substation off Araby Road was just completed.

A third project, while smaller, caught the attention of the community. It involved modifications to the lobby of Yuma City Hall for the display of the City of Yuma, the airplane flown in the 1949 endurance flight.

As for restaurants, Lin’s Grand Buffet at 16th Street and Pacific Avenue is getting close, Crist said, describing the interior as “elaborate.”

Two new restaurants for 2012 were Chipotle and its neighbor, Pita Pit. And the city has heard from the project manager for Chick-fil-A that construction on that long-awaited restaurant may start by late spring.

On a larger scale, two new car dealerships were built in 2012. Alexander Toyota-Scion was finished recently, and the Yuma Honda dealership will probably be finished this month.

Activity has been brisk at Yuma International Airport with a number of building projects. The $4.5 million Customs and Border Protection complex was completed in 2012, while work continues on the $2.1 million Aviation Industrial Complex and the $1.6 million Amelia Earhart Hangar shell. Improvements are also coming to the secured passenger waiting area of the airport terminal.

Other major projects completed in 2012 were the construction of a new LDS church on the east side of the city, a $1.5 million expansion to the Driscoll Strawberry Cooler, a new classroom building at Cibola High School and the new Humane Society of Yuma complex.

Crist also noted a number of solar photovoltaic projects for schools and businesses.

And all of this activity doesn’t include the federal courthouse that is nearing completion in the North End or the millions of dollars in projects at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma as it prepares for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As federal government projects, they’re not under the oversight of the city’s Community Development Department.

“So all in all it was a good year,” Crist said.

And he’s hopeful that 2013 also will be a good year for construction activity in the city with such looming projects as the redevelopment of Southgate Mall, continued building activity at the airport and the hospital’s two major projects coming up.