Residential, commercial building still stable in Tri-Cities

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldApril 20, 2013 

Kennewick and Richland businesses are expanding and improving, boosting commercial building so far this year while Pasco's commercial projects have stayed about the same.

While new Tri-City home permits have dropped slightly, the value of those houses has climbed, said building officials.

Renee Brooks, Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities director of governmental affairs, said despite initial economic uncertainties and Hanford layoffs, many home builders expected this year's construction activity will be similar to 2012.

In the first three months, 249 new homes were started in the Tri-Cities -- just 11 fewer than during the same period in 2012, according to the Home Builders Association.

The value of the homes built so far this year is $66.6 million compared to almost $66 million for the first quarter last year.

Overall, building permits issued in the Tri-City area this year grew 14 percent to $139.2 million, the association said.

"The Tri-Cities has done a great job with economic development," Brooks said.

She said development is cyclical because having enough houses available drives some economic development, which in turn can spark the need for more new homes.

Kennewick

Most of the construction activity Kennewick has seen in the first quarter can be attributed to existing businesses expanding or improving, said Evelyn Lusignan, Kennewick's customer service manager.

"It is always great to see our businesses grow and continuing their investments in this community," she said.

Kennewick has seen a 6 percent increase in the value of the new projects from January through March, for a total of $27.8 million.

The value of Kennewick's commercial remodels has increased this year to 43 projects valued at about $5.5 million, according to city documents. During the same time last year, there were 54 projects worth a total of $4.2 million.

The number of new commercial buildings permitted is about half of what it was during the first three months of 2012. So far, five new commercial buildings have been permitted, valued at $1.2 million, compared to 12 projects valued at $2.3 million during the same time in 2012, according to city documents.

Projects started so far this year include the Phoenix High School renovation at 1315 W. Fourth Ave., and Tri-City Orthopedic Clinic's new 7,018-square-foot medical building at 6703 W. Rio Grand Ave., Lusignan said.

Kennewick also has seen more new homes started during first quarter of 2013. So far, permits were given for 73 homes valued at $17.3 million -- an 11 percent increase in homes and a 5 percent increase in value, according to city documents.

Brooks said Kennewick can expect to see more homes going in at Southridge thanks to commercial development plans in that area.

Pasco

Pasco's building activity dropped almost 9 percent in value in the first three months of this year, to about $36 million.

Rick White, Pasco's community and economic development director, said there's been less industrial construction so far this year. Last year saw a number of new agricultural warehouses being built.

Industrial projects were valued at about $7.4 million for the first three months of 2012, compared to $2.2 million so far this year, according to city documents.

Commercial development, which includes additions, remodels and new projects, was about the same at $14.2 million.

While Pasco saw fewer homes getting started in the first three months of this year, the value of the new houses is greater, averaging about $240,000, White said.

The 54 homes issued permits are valued at more than $13 million, compared to 74 homes valued at $16.6 million during the same time in 2012.

White said this year has started off slower, but he expects permits to pick up.

Some subdivisions are filling in, so he believes some new subdivisions could open up the number of available lots for new homes.

Brooks said Pasco's new school impact fees likely is slowing the number of new homes. The Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities opposed Pasco's creation of the fees charged to builders to support schools.

But she believes the addition of the new schools recently approved by voters will entice some housing growth.

White said he doesn't think Pasco's impact fees have affected new home starts. He noted that Pasco has issued permits for 20 new duplexes valued at a total of $4 million so far this year, compared to one during the same time in 2012.

Richland

Commercial development in Richland has seen a bit of growth this year, said Rick Simon, Richland's development services manager.

So far, 35 new commercial projects valued at almost $11.1 million have been permitted, Simon said. That compares to eight projects worth $2.6 million for the same time last year.

Some of the new commercial projects include a new Yoke's Fresh Market, several strip malls along Queensgate Drive and new apartments being built by Innovation Center at Tri-Cities Research District.

Richland's building activity remains similar to first quarter 2012, with almost $34 million worth of projects given permits so far this year, just $600,000 less than the year before.

Simon said single-family home permits are similar to 2011 and 2012, and better than what Richland had in 2009 and 2010.

During the first quarter, 55 new homes valued at $17.1 million were started in Richland, compared to 73 homes valued at $19.5 million in the first quarter of 2012, Simon said.

Brooks said Richland's new home starts should pick up as permits are issued for the Badger South development, where about 5,000 homes are planned.

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