Some Areas See Significant Growth, While Others Remain Stagnant
WESTERN SAN JUANS – Although parts of the region remain sluggish as the construction season moves into full swing, marked increases in the number of building permits being issued, coupled with the valuation of those permits, particularly in Montrose County and Telluride, have some feeling cautiously optimistic that the local construction market is rebounding.
Commercial contractor Scott Stryker, owner of Ridgway Valley Enterprises, told a capacity crowd at a May 7 Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli forum that he sees many “bright spots” in the number of upcoming commercial projects, and that his firm is prepared to grow as construction increases.
“Right now we have 40 employees working for us,” Stryker said. “If you ask me in September, I hope to say we have 55 employees. That gives some indication of the direction we see our company heading.”
Commercial construction bright spots for the Montrose area include the new recreation center, the addition of retailer Ross Dress for Less, which will break ground on June 2, and a dialysis clinic that will soon be built on South 5th St.
“Those are some of the big commercial projects we have going on locally,” Stryker said. “All in all, it’s mostly thumbs up.”
Jason Byler, a homebuilder in the Montrose area for the past 21 years, said he is confident the construction market is rebounding. Prior to 2008, he was building somewhere between 16-20 homes a year in the Montrose area. His worst year was in 2011, when “things really slowed down.” But Byler said his business has gradually been growing since then: “I’ve got four to five houses going right now and I am getting a lot more phone calls and inquires. Things have definitely picked up from where they were.”
In Montrose County, 16 single-family building permits were issued in the first four months of this year, a 23 percent increase from the 13 permits issued in that same time period last year. The total valuation of those permits has increased by 39 percent. City of Montrose Community Development Director Kerwin Jensen reported at the Heidi’s forum that similar permit increases are being seen within the City of Montrose as well.
Through the end of April, the city has issued a total of 14 single-family building permits, two more during the same period last year. Valuations of those permits are up from approximately $2.3 million in 2013 to $2.8 million this year.
“It is steady growth,” Jensen said. “We bottomed out in single-family building permits in 2012 with 19 total permits issued. Ever since then, we have been going up.”
While Wednesday’s forum at Heidi’s Deli was mainly focused on the Montrose region, Stryker said he was happy to report that other communities in the region, such as Telluride, are seeing increases in construction as well.
As of May 5, a total of 34 permits have been issued in 2014 in the Town of Telluride, according to Building and Planning Director Michelle Haynes. That is four less than the number of permits at this time last year, but the valuation of this year’s permits is $9,977,466, compared to $5,325,550 in 2013.
“I don’t see any kind of giant building boom,” said Telluride builder Peter Garber, owner of Concept in Construction Solutions. “I do see that there’s a change in what people are willing to pay for.”
Ridgway Town Manager Jen Coates said construction is generally trending upward in Ridgway as well. Through May 4, the town issued 14 building permits, already half the number of permits issued in all of 2013. Coates said there have been conversations that could lead to nine more single-family houses built in Ridgway. If those come to fruition, it would represent a 50 percent improvement over the number built in 2013.
Other areas in the region remain sluggish, including unincorporated areas of Ouray County, San Miguel County and in the Town of Mountain Village. Through March in Mountain Village, there have been a total of 28 permits issued, marking a 30 percent drop from the 40 issued in 2013.
In Ouray County, the number of permits issued is flat so far in 2014. Five building permits were issued through March, the same figure as last year.
Ouray County Planner Mark Castrodale said he is seeing a decrease in new single-family homes this year, and more permits being issued for garages and remodels.
In the unincorporated areas of San Miguel County, according to Building Official Gary Hodges, there have been“fewer permits and less activity” than in “probably the last 24 years.”
Just 13 building permits have been issued so far in 2014, with a valuation of $329,000. Last year at this time, according to Hodges, San Miguel County was also slow, with a total of nine permits issued. The difference, he said, is the valuation of those permits were significantly higher, at approximately $2.5 million.
“The conversation is out there that things are going to pick up this year,” Hodges said. “I am surprised. The contractors are surprised. Like I said, though, when I talk to contractors, I hear that things are going to pick up. There is optimism but it’s guarded optimism.”
Back in Montrose, Stryker said the lack of construction he’s most worried about is in the sector of so-called “mom and pop,” or small commercial, projects. “We don’t have a lot of those, and that is probably a concern,” he said. “We were about to do a project and financing fell through. Probably the biggest hurdle is getting financing.”
Byler said he recently sold a house to a couple from Montana. As other markets such as Denver continue to grow, the Montrose market should pick up as well, he added.
“I see good things happening here,” he said.