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Construction record hammered

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF
A house under construction above the west side of Daly Avenue helped Park City's builders reach an all-time high in 2006 as measured by the value of construction. Grayson West/Park Record
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For 35 years, Ross Quilter has watched Park City’s construction industry rise from the early days of the city’s resort-town era.

But 2006, he says, was huge.

"I’ve never seen anything like this, ever. Not even close," Quilter, a general contractor, says.

The numbers recorded by the Park City Building Department confirm Quilter’s assessment. The department says that with a quarter of the year remaining, the value of permit-authorized construction already is a record.

Through the end of September, the Building Department reported that construction in the city in 2006 was valued at a little more than $142.8 million.

The city’s previous record was a little less than $118.9 million, set in 1999, when the city, in the years leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics, was frenzied with developers trying to be ready before the Games.

Richard Carlile, who supervises building inspectors for City Hall, says that the 1999 benchmark was passed in August.

"The economy in Utah is that good," Carlile says, explaining his theory of the 2006 record.

He labels several significant developments as critical to the figures this year. He says construction at Deer Crest, Empire Pass, Silver Star and the Sky Lodge have pushed the numbers up.

Deer Crest and Empire Pass continue to be built on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort, Silver Star is under construction on the edge of Thaynes Canyon, at Park City Mountain Resort, and Sky Lodge is under construction at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue.

"They all certainly, together, combined to help the numbers a whole bunch," Carlile says.

He expects that the numbers tallied by the end of the year could surpass $150 million, depending on whether additional building permits are issued at Silver Star and other large developments.

Quilter says the boom in 2006 makes it difficult to schedule people for plumbing work, drywall installation and electrical work. They are swamped, he says. Quilter says he is working on six houses or remodeled houses in Park City and one in Summit County. Combined, the work is valued at about $8 million, according to Quilter.

"It’s just so busy. It’s hard to keep track," he says.

In the years since the Winter Olympics, Park City has emerged as a better-known destination and the local economy has been humming. In 2002, when a construction dip was blamed on the difficulties of building during the Olympics and concerns about war, the city tallied a little less than $51.5 million.

two years later, the numbers had almost doubled and in 2005 the industry approached the 1999 record.

Through the end of September, the industry is up 75.6 percent from the previous year. August and September this year were huge months, with a combined $40.6 million.

The construction numbers largely reflect what other sectors of Park City’s economy have seen. The ski industry in Utah has set records the last two years and lots of the city’s businesses have said that they have had strong years.

Betty Brown, the president of the Park City Board of Realtors, says the boom this year reflects the area’s hot real-estate market. She says that people see Park City as a better deal than other mountain resorts, such as Aspen, Colo., Vail, Colo., and Jackson, Wyo.

"For years, we were undervalued compared to the other destination ski areas," she says.

Brown says that some people are choosing to build houses rather than buying existing ones because, with the appreciation of home values, it makes sense to some to put up their dream homes, built how they want.

"We all like to have something that is to our own personal taste," she says.

Brown, meanwhile, says that some people purchased land years ago, held onto the ground and decided to build because the land is more valuable.

Brown does not expect that the real-estate industry will set a record in 2006 but it will approach its biggest year ever. She says that some sales might be delayed until 2007, threatening to keep the industry from a record in 2006.

Carlile, the supervisor in the Building Department, like Brown, says that buyers see Park City as a good spot to purchase because prices generally do not reach those in other mountain resorts. That, he says, spurs the construction industry.

"Park City’s still playing a little of a catch-up game. They’re early Vail, early Aspen numbers," he says about the real-estate market. "We’re still a pretty good deal."


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