Looks, numbers can deceive

Building permit figures don't reveal late surge boosting 2006 construction

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Chief Building Department Official Carl Dunham said despite the perception that Steamboat Springs has seen a great deal of commercial building activity, residential projects such as Emerald Lodge at Trappeur's Crossing continue to drive the construction industry locally.

— The volume of construction-truck traffic bustling back and forth on U.S. Highway 40 this week could point to a trend.

At first glance, the valuation of building permits issued in Routt County this year appears to be on the decline. But that situation very well could reverse before year's end.

Routt County's chief building official said there's potential for several multi-family housing and mixed commercial/residential developments with substantial valuation to be permitted this fall.

"Through August, we're $6 million below last year, but that's based on issued permits, not pending permits," county building official Carl Dunham said. "We have a number of projects that are in and approved, but haven't (pulled) permits."

As an example, Dunham cited The Village at Steamboat on Pine Grove Road. Site preparation is under way just south of the Strings in the Mountains campus where four 50,000-square-foot condominium buildings are planned. In addition, The Village at Steamboat developer Trendwest Resorts will construct a resort amenity building and a laundry facility.

Issuance of that building permit alone would add $20 million to this year's valuation, Dunham said. At more than 200,000 square feet, it's a substantial project, he added. The Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel, by comparison, comprises 325,000 square feet.

The Building Department is reporting countywide construction valuation through August of $131 million compared to $137.3 million at the same time in 2005. To put that in perspective, Dunham said it's worth noting that last year's final valuation number of $202.8 million is second all time for Routt County and just $1.2 million behind the 1998 record of $203.6 million. The record year is viewed as an anomaly in the county because the Steamboat Grand, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Hayden Station power plant retrofit and Steamboat Springs High School remodel overlapped one another that year.

Historically, by the end of August, the Building Department has issued permits reflecting 65.75 percent of the year's total valuation. By September, the volume typically drops. This year could see a greater percentage of overall permit valuation issued after the end of August, Dunham said.

Mixed-use projects in downtown Steamboat could add more valuation to this year's building permits. If the developers of the Alpenglow project demolish the Nite's Rest Motel this fall and pull the approved permit for their foundation, for example, it could add $1.4 million to the 2006 total.

And the contributions other communities in Routt County are making to total valuation of building permits are not to be overlooked.

"We're going to still see some action in Hayden" this fall, Dunham said.

Since the end of August, 13 residential permit applications for Hayden - including three townhomes, have come to the Building Department, and more are anticipated. Oak Creek has seen 16 new residential construction projects in 2006.

There is a construction boom taking place in unincorporated Stagecoach, but the Building Department does not track those independently from overall Routt County numbers.

There were 14 building permits issued in Steamboat in August - eight for single-family homes with an aggregate valuation of $4.68 million. The valuation of buildings for permit purposes does not reflect the retail value of the homes. Also in August, permits were issued for six duplex units valued at $1.88 million.

Through August, Steamboat had seen permits issued for 175 units with a valuation of $75.49 million. That's down from the same period in 2005, when 190 permits valued at $76.6 million had been issued.

Dunham is anticipating that 2007 - with projects such as One Steamboat Place and Wildhorse Meadows coming on line - could be busier than 2006. And if current trends hold, it will be residential projects that predominate.

"We like to talk about all of the commercial (projects) being built," Dunham said. "But we're still being driven by residential construction."

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