Leveling off

Construction returning to normal

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— Construction values are down 14 percent from last year, but one county official said the current figures represent a return to normal construction levels.

At the end of May, construction valuation in the city and county totaled $34.7 million, down almost $6 million from last year's building permits at this time. With the exception of January and April, construction valuations countywide have been lower than the year before for every month since July.

But Mark Marchus, chief building officer for Routt County, said this year's numbers are a return to the normal rate of construction in 1997, before the boom hit Steamboat.

"My experience for this year is that we are going to return back to 1997. The kind of construction activity we are seeing now is just a little bit shy of that. And, I think the graphs and all the information continue to lead me to believe that is pretty close to where we are going to be," Marchus said.

At the five-month mark in 1997, construction valuation was $23 million.

Marchus said the biggest reason for this year's drop in dollars is the lack of expensive condo projects at or near the base of the mountain.

Since 1998, Steamboat has had a steady flow of massive building projects with the addition to the Sheraton, and the construction of the Grand Summit Hotel, the Canyons, Eagle Ridge and Antlers.

"Those bigger projects skew numbers and easily run valuations up," Marchus said. "In 2002 we don't have any of those." Since January, Marchus said no building permits have been issued for a condo project near the ski area.

But Randall Hannaway, president of the Board of Realtors, said that just because condos are not being built at the moment does not mean the Steamboat market is saturated. He said until the national economy improves a little more, building expensive condos near the ski mountain remains a risky investment.

"You have to build them all at one time. When you get a project that large and requiring that many risks, investors' confidence has to be really high and the market in good shape," Hannaway said.

A safer bet, Hannaway said, are single-family or townhome developments where developers can build on a per unit basis.

"It's a little safer to produce. If they don't sell, you don't build that many," Hannaway said.

Marchus said while fewer condos are being built, the single-family housing market has not slowed. In fact, Marchus said the majority of projects done this year are for the single-family developments west of Steamboat in Sliver Spur and Heritage Park.

Just for the month of May, Marchus said the city had seven single-family home building permits and the county had 23.

And Marchus sees that market continuing to grow as interest rates stay low at 6.5 and 7 percent.

"As long as interest rates stay down," Marchus said, "there is incentive for people looking."

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