Construction of the new Walgreen’s store, just under way at the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road in City South, is not yet reflected in year-to-date building permit valuations.

Photo by Tom Ross

Construction of the new Walgreen’s store, just under way at the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road in City South, is not yet reflected in year-to-date building permit valuations.

Remodeling defines Steamboat's 2011 construction industry

Alterations, additions help construction business

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Building permit valuation

Year-to-date building permit valuation through May

■ Steamboat Springs

2011: $8.38 million

2010: $12.65 million

2009: $20.5 million

■ Routt County excluding Steamboat and Hayden

2011: $4.1 million

2010: $9.38 million

2009: $16.39 million

— Were it not for remodeling projects to existing buildings, construction activity in Steamboat Springs and Routt County would be almost invisible early this summer. Specifically, alterations and additions to commercial buildings are carrying the local building industry through a deep trough.

“In the city of Steamboat Springs, we issued no permits in May for new construction,” Routt County Building Department Official Carl Dunham said Thursday. “Through May we have $8 million in permit valuation, and $6 million of that is alterations and additions to buildings other than dwellings.”

Remodels to residential buildings account for another $1.87 million, and $955,000 is attributable to three single-family homes.

Veteran Steamboat home building contractor Gary Cogswell said last week that he is building a large custom home in rural Routt County that was begun in 2010 and will keep his crew busy until late fall. However, he doesn’t have his next job lined up.

“I’m really surprised the phone hasn’t rung at all,” Cogswell said. On an encouraging note, Cogswell said he has heard that local architects “are drawing again,” a sign that some people are looking ahead to building homes.

The story reverses in Routt County outside Steamboat (excluding Hayden), where $4.1 million in year-to-date permit valuation is attributable to $3.23 million in single-family homes, and $625,000 was generated by additions and alterations to existing homes.

Alterations of commercial buildings often include tenant finishes for new retail stores and restaurants, for example. The latter can be expensive because of the cost of installing a commercial kitchen.

The Building Department reported last week that there were 28 permits issued in May for alterations and additions totaling $3.03 million.

The home-building horizon was brighter outside Steamboat in rural Routt County, where three permits were issued in May for single-family homes with a combined permit valuation of $2.77 million.

There have been no permits issued for duplexes or multifamily residential projects.

“For years and years I was successful because of the double whammy we enjoyed — people built homes here because they wanted to spend part of the year in a beautiful home, and second, they had confidence it was a good investment,” Cogswell said. “There are folks who want to do this, but they’re looking for the bottom. They want to know that what they build will hold its value.”

Cogswell, who at one time employed 15 people, now has a crew of five.

The latest figures from the Building Department do not include the permit valuation for the incoming Walgreens building at U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road. Nor do they include the pending construction of a $20 million, 60,000-square-foot building at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus, which is not required to go through the local permit process.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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