Building Boom: Recent Activity Seems To Bode Well For Yuma’s Economy

By Joyce Lobeck, Yuma Biz Updated 

The local economy is humming along — if building activity throughout Yuma County is any indication.

“It was a busy year … very busy for inspections and plan reviews,” Randy Crist, city of Yuma building official, said of 2016. He noted that more than 3,400 plans were reviewed – a some-20 percent increase over 2015.

“It was an awesome year.” That goes for both residential and commercial building activity.

And all indications point to an equally busy year in 2017 for developers and builders in the city of Yuma and countywide. That activity crosses the spectrum to include residential development, health care facilities, schools and commercial and industrial activity, not to mention the Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex now under construction near Yuma Palms Regional Center.

The recreational complex, a $13 million project, is on a fast track as it needs to be completed by Labor Day for a big softball tournament that is scheduled to take place there that holiday weekend, Crist said.

“It’s a big project,” he said, with six regulation-size softball fields, state-of-the-art LED lighting, an elaborate drainage system and computer-controlled irrigation system due to the heavy soil of the area. DPE Construction Inc. of Yuma is the general contractor.

Arguably the largest upcoming ticket item countywide is building activity generated by voter approval in November 2015 of a sale by Yuma Union High School District of $79.5 million in bonds. The bonds will fund a number of projects to repair, renovate and maintain schools, improve school grounds and build school buildings.

Since its passage a little over a year ago, many projects are already underway throughout YUHSD schools. In addition, plans are in review for new classroom buildings at Cibola High School that will replace modular classrooms on that campus, while modular classrooms are under construction on the San Luis High School campus. At the same time, the designing, planning and estimating of future projects continues, among them construction of a new Somerton High School, a new building for Vista and the replacement of the YUHSD administrative offices.

Elsewhere, a new office building for Gadsden School District was recently constructed in San Luis, Ariz., and kitchen and classroom renovation projects for two Crane School District schools – Rancho Viejo and HL Suverkrup — have been completed.

The biggest news for 2016 was the completion of the long-awaited new Emergency Department at Yuma Regional Medical Center, just in time to give the community an early Christmas present when it started serving patients in the early hours of Dec. 15.

The new Emergency Department was the culmination of a three-year, $115 million expansion and campus renovation effort, according to an announcement by contractor McCarthy Building Companies. Begun in 2013, it involved a number of “make-way” projects that included construction of a patient and visitor parking garage, administrative building and completion of the patient tower before the ED project was undertaken. The new 71,000-square-foot ED boosts bed capacity from 37 to 72 to meet the community’s needs for years to come. It also includes lower-level parking for medical staff, an underground shell floor for a future dietary kitchen department and two additional upper level shell floors totaling 100,000 square feet to accommodate future hospital needs.

“They’re not done yet,” Crist said of YRMC. “There’s a lot of shell space, and I anticipate work on the new food service department before long. There’s no plans submitted yet, but I know it’s out there.”

Other health care facilities are more immediately on the horizon.

YRMC has leased the second floor of a 35,000-square-foot empty building at 2500 S. 8th Ave. YRMC intends to relocate its clinical offices to the site once tenant improvements are completed this summer.

Meanwhile, construction is well underway in Somerton for two new buildings for the Regional Center for Border Health at 950 Main St., said Kirk Perkins, construction manager for Yuma Valley Contractors. The $5.5 million project includes two two-story buildings. A 22,500-square-foot building will house the organization’s College of Health Careers in one location. The second building, with 15,000 square feet, will allow for expansion of the center’s clinical health care services in a state-of-the-art facility, to include a pharmacy. Both buildings are scheduled for completion by early August.

Perkins noted that the health-care provider has outgrown its downtown clinic. Plans are to keep that clinic open as well to better serve the Somerton area.

Crist noted that two other large health care projects are in the planning stages within the city of Yuma. Bio Medical and Surgical Plaza, an outpatient surgical center, will be going in at 3049 S. Avenue B. And the 88-bed River Valley Estates Assisted Living is to be developed in Plaza Del Este on the east side of Yuma.

Various other health care projects also are underway, such as an expansion to Up-2-Par Medical Clinic at 2775 S. 8th Ave. that is now under construction, a new dental clinic for Dr. Alex Freeman at 1207 W. 16th St. and new medical office for Dr. Scott Forrer at 2500 S. 8th Ave.

They follow a variety of health-related projects that were completed in 2016, among them remodeling of a hotel into the Veterans Assisted Living, an addition and alterations to Achieve Human Services at 3220 E. 40th St., interior alterations to the Ambulatory Surgery Center at 2261 S. Avenue B, new offices at 2201 S. Avenue A for dentist Dr. Craig Barrows and orthodontist Dr. Allison Milliner, renovations to Haven Health at 2470 S. Arizona Ave., factory built building for Yuma Health Clinic at 675 S. Avenue B and a new parking deck at ProMed, 2270 S. Ridgeview Drive, in anticipation of future development of that medical complex.

New eateries in Yuma that opened in 2016 include Freddy’s Custard and Steakburgers in Gomez Plaza at 1785 E. 16th St., Native Grill and Wings also in Gomez Plaza at 1717 E. 16th St., and Hooters in the former Logan’s Steakhouse site at 1519 S. Yuma Palms Parkway.

Meanwhile, a Denny’s is coming to San Luis, Ariz., near Walmart, and Black Bear Diner plans to open in the fall in the former Mimi’s Café site at Yuma Palms Regional Center.

Two major retail projects are well underway in Yuma: Sprouts Farmers Market has a targeted opening in early summer at 4th Avenue and 16th Street; and Sportsman Warehouse is well under construction next to Hobby Lobby with an anticipated opening by summer. Also under construction is a new auto service shop for Alexander Ford at 801 E. 32nd St., completion of Mission Valley Plaza Building 2 and various other smaller projects.

A major retail project completed in 2016 was the Walmart Neighborhood Market at 2675 W. 8th St. Other completed retail project include construction of the Valentin Guzman Insurance Agency and Real Estate Offices on 4th Avenue, remodeling Regency Main Street Cinemas to add recliner seating, a remodel of Sprague’s Sports, alterations to Albertson’s at 252 W. 32nd St., construction of Big Tire Suspension at 4101 E. 32nd St., and tenant improvements for Farley’s Market at 1110 S. Castle Dome Ave. that opened and closed the same year.

A variety of industrial projects also have been completed, are under development or are in the planning stages.

Coming is an egg processing plant for Almark Foods, a 120,000-square-foot facility to be built at East 36th Street and Avenue 4 1/2E at an estimated cost of $27.5 million for land acquisition, construction and equipment. Almark supplies hard-boiled and peeled eggs to such national grocery chains as Kroger and Safeway, as well as a variety of convenience stores. Construction is expected to begin this spring for completion by the spring of 2018. It would provide 100 jobs.

In San Luis, there’s some activity for industrial parks being developed near San Luis Port II.

Infrastructure has been completed for 80 acres in the Southwest Arizona Industrial Park and lots are now being marketed, reported Elizabeth Carpenter, Realtor for the park being developed by Eddie Loo. “There is some interest,” she said, but negotiations are in the early stages.

RL Jones expects to break ground by early March on 20 acres the company is developing within the Magrino Industrial Park to accommodate the brokerage house’s operations and that of its clients, confirmed Russ Jones. He added that other projects in the industrial park are in the planning stages.

And Eckard Commercial Construction has been busy with various projects at Citrus Business Park, located on Avenue 4E between 41st and 43rd streets, reported Troy Eckard. A manufacturing plant for S&A Industries was completed in 2016 and the builder is getting ready to build a new 23,000-square foot plant for Insultech. He is working on several other projects, but they’re too early in negotiations to disclose who they are.

He said the 72-acre business park currently is an estimated 30 to 40 percent built out. “The park is getting full. There’s a lot of good stuff … a lot of interest. It’s been a dynamic 1½ years.”

He credits Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation for its assistance and “just getting companies to commit to coming to Yuma.”

As for residential, that sector, too, has been busy.

In the city of Yuma, 448 building permits were issued in 2016 for single-family detached homes and townhomes, reported Crist. That compares to 383 permits issued in 2015 – and that was a 25 percent increase over the previous year.

“Residential continues to surpass previous years,” Crist said. And he expects the number to further improve this year despite talk by the Feds of raising the interest rate.

Residential activity in Yuma includes a new subdivision being developed by Halls Brothers Construction off 12th Street between Avenues C and B. Elsewhere, building activity continues at such subdivisions as Park West, Livingston Ranch, Saguaro, Sierra Montana and Araby Crossing, Crist reported.

In addition, construction is under way on the second phase of El Dorado Condominiums at 3701 W. 22nd Lane.

Residential activity is also brisk in San Luis, reported Rosales, with three new subdivisions either under construction or in the planning stages. The two primary home builders there are Nieves Riedel and Bienestar.

Jacobson Companies has been busy building new homes at Martinez Lake, reported Bruce Jacobson, vice president of the company. “It’s exciting to see what is going on. A lot of homes are being built … nice homes.”

The same is starting to happen at Fisher’s Landing, he said, with people from California wanting to build nice weekend homes along the water.

The company also is moving forward with two more units at Cielo Verde off 32nd Street and Avenue 8 1/2E. He said infrastructure is going in for Unit 5, where he expects to start building houses by summer. He also expects to start home construction within the next few months in Unit 3.

Crist concluded: “I’m a very cautious person but I’m optimistic. I think we’ll continue to see increases in our growth here. We’re back to a solid strong pace.”

This story originally appeared in Yuma Biz, the monthly publication by the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce.