Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TOP STORY >> Building rebounds, Cabot still Struggling

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Sherwood’s construction rate has nearly tripled from last year’s figures and Jacksonville is up around 50 percent, but Cabot, following the national trend, is down about 10 percent.

Through February, Sherwood has seen a 195 percent increase in the value of building permits. The city issued 135 permits through February with a total value of $3.7 million. This compares to just 69 permits valued at $1.3 million for the first two months of 2009.

In Jacksonville, the city has issued 33 permits valued at $2.3 million through February, compared to 24 permits worth $1.6 million through the first two months of 2009.

Cabot has issued 11 permits valued at $2.4 million this year compared to 16 permits during the same time period in 2009 worth? $2.9 million.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman hopes the fast start is a sign of good things to continue. She said that spring and the nicer weather is bringing out a lot of construction.

“You can really see the work off Hwy. 107 and Johnson Avenue where the new middle school is going in,” she said.

Hillman added that many new homes sell for the same price as used homes, so people are opting for the new homes. She said the city is running low on open lots but she expects developers to bring new subdivision projects to the planning commission soon.

Jacksonville is on the pace to end up with about 20 percent more new homes than it had last year. City Engineer Jay Whisker said he believes developers are feeling more comfortable.

“Our development has always been slow and steady,” Whisker said. “So I don’t think we dipped as much as other cities.”

Some of the new construction in Jacksonville is happening in Graham Settlement, a 72-lot subdivision off Graham and Loop roads. Dana Nixon, who is involved in the project, said the last of the lots had been sold and construction should start on those lots in a few days.

Homes in the Graham Settlement are in the 1,150- to 1,450-square-foot range with double garages, extra-wide driveway, all brick façade and are energy efficient, according to Nixon. Most of the homes are three or four bedrooms.

Nixon’s group is also putting in roads in an additional subdivision, Graham Woods, also off Graham Road. This subdivision will include 85 lots when it is finished with homes similar to Graham Settlement.

?Nationally, housing starts fell in February as winter blizzards held down activity in the U.S. Northeast and South.

The Commerce Department said that construction of new homes and apartments fell 5.9 percent in February. Building permits, considered a good barometer of future activity, fell 1.6 percent nationally to an annual rate of 612,000 units after having fallen a larger 4.7 percent in January.