Builders post a solid year | ParkRecord.com

Builders post a solid year

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Park City’s construction industry posted $148.7 million in work in 2008, the No. 3 year on record, but builders were well off the all-time pace of 2007, the city’s Building Department reported.

The industry, a bellwether sector in Park City that has expanded significantly in the era since the 2002 Winter Olympics and buoys other businesses like lunch spots and building suppliers, suffered in the economic woes of last year.

Building permits dropped, City Hall did not bring in as much money in fees and one crucial market — multi-family projects like condominiums — dropped precipitously in 2008. Still, though, a ranking figure in the industry said construction crews remained busy.

"As far as your workload and what you had to do, you really didn’t notice it tapering off," said Scott Stubbs, who was the president of the Park City Area Home Builders Association in 2008 and is the president of Legacy Group Construction.

He said his firm built approximately half the number of homes in 2008 as it did annually in the few years before. Stubbs said Legacy Group put up eight or nine houses in 2008, down from the 15 to 20 each year since 2006.

Stubbs said business began to slip in the industry in June, when construction crews typically rev up as the snow melts. Smaller construction firms also suffered, he said, with some perhaps building one house in 2008 compared to the three they would normally raise.

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"It’s not a good market right now," Stubbs said.

The $148.7 million in construction followed two consecutive record years for the industry. In 2007, builders tallied $239.7 million and the number sat at $173.3 million in 2006.

Ron Ivie, City Hall’s chief building official, maintained that the 2008 numbers were "still pretty darn good." He said another record could have been set last year if permit applications already filed had been approved before the end of the year. He said a phase of the Montage in Empire Pass, which is valued at $92.2 million, is among those awaiting approval and will likely be tallied in 2009.

"We could have had a record year," Ivie said

Some of the high-dollar permits issued in 2008 included the Quinn’s Junction hospital, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s headquarters and training center at Quinn’s Junction and the Silver Star residential development on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort. Ivie said a phase of the Montage and a phase of Deer Crest also pushed up the 2008 numbers, as did people remodeling houses.

"I actually think we’ve done remarkably well by maintaining some level of development growth in a real down economy," he said.

But other segments were well off the pace of previous years. Some of the construction categories that fell in Park City included:

Single-family homes, which dropped to 30 permits from 62 in 2007 and 122 in 2006. The value of the permits fell to $16.9 million, down from the $33.3 million in 2007 and the $59.1 million in 2006.

Duplexes, which numbered two in 2008, down from nine in 2007 and 11 in 2006. The value fell to $1.5 million from the $8.4 million in 2007 and the $6.9 million in 2006.

Multi-family projects, with one permit issued for three units. It was valued at $1.5 million. The previous year, 13 permits totaling 164 units were granted, worth $43.5 million. In 2006, 13 permits totaling 99 units were issued, with a value of $18.5 million.

The number of permits for commercial construction climbed slightly to eight, but the value of them fell to $6.9 million from the $20.5 million the year before.

Park City’s construction industry had enjoyed a blistering pace since the Olympics, as the city became a hotter place for people to buy vacation homes. The city was billed as a smart place to buy, with real estate marketers touting its location close to an international airport, the three mountain resorts and Park City’s prices compared to competitors like Aspen, Colo., Sun Valley, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyo.

Ivie said the pending approval of the permit for a phase of the Montage will provide a strong start to the 2009 tally. He expects 2009 will be a solid construction year, but he predicts the end-of-year figure will not match that of 2008.

He expects a drop in construction categories like single-family houses unless the federal government intervenes with a financial package to push up the economy.

Meanwhile, Ivie said his department fielded fewer complaints about construction in 2008. He said the major projects that were under construction in 2008 like the hospital and Empire Pass were set well away from neighbors.

Millions in construction

The annual construction values since the year of the 2002 Winter Olympics:

1. $239.7 million

2007

2. $173.3 million

2006

3. $148.7 million

2008

4. $115.5 million

2005

5. $95.5 million

2004

6. $59.2 million

2003

7. $51.5 million

2002

Source: Park City Building Department