Cedar Rapids sets record for construction

Public, private projects push permits up

Rick Smith
Published: September 12 2012 | 6:51 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 12:22 am in
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City Hall is celebrating a city record — $346.65 million worth of construction starts in one year.

The record dollar number for the year that ended June 30 represents work begun on projects or phases of projects small and large, private and public, the latter of which includes work on several large city flood-recovery projects.

The city is building a new convention center, library, central fire station and riverfront amphitheater and is renovating or has renovated the city’s hotel, arena, Paramount Theatre, City Hall and Veterans Memorial Building.

“Actually, it’s a lot more than that (the city’s projects),” Mayor Ron Corbett said Wednesday. “Most people are seeing a lot of public sector investment as it relates to the library and the new fire station and convention center. But we’ve seen just a tremendous amount of private-sector investment also.”

Corbett pointed to the construction of new buildings by Intermec, developer Steve Emerson, Raining Rose, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa and Cargill as some of the recent private-sector investment in Cedar Rapids.

He said he was in downtown Chicago earlier this month, at which time he said he saw just two construction cranes on the skyline. Cargill alone has three cranes in place in Cedar Rapids as part of what the mayor said was  $20 million in work.

"There’s just a tremendous amount of construction in Cedar Rapids," Corbett said. "And to see this type of activity when, nationally, the presidential candidates are talking about the economy and how it needs to improve …. We are maybe a little oasis from a construction standpoint."

Dee Baird, president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, on Wednesday said the city’s construction figures were another indicator of the strong growth the Cedar Rapids region is experiencing.

“The projects completed, and those under way, are a testament to the business leaders and developers who are willing to invest in this community,” Baird said.

The $346.65 million in construction starts in fiscal 012 includes $156 million in new construction, $103.3 million in remodeling and renovations and $87.3 million in repairs and additions, according to city figures.

The 2012 figure is well above the city’s annual average over 11 years of $219 million in construction starts.

The 2012 figure is $102.8 million more than the 2011 figure, but just $51 million more than for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008, and $57 million more than for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, the fiscal year in which construction started on the new $160 million federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids.

Kevin Ciabatti, the director of the city’s Building Services Department, on Wednesday said that annual construction valuations are calculated from permits taken out for construction work. Some big projects can have permits taken out in phases as a project is contemplated and then worked on, he said.

Ciabatti, who started work with the city in October 2011 after working for the city of Rockford, Ill., said many communities the size of Cedar Rapids would be "extremely happy" in getting to $200 million a year in construction starts let alone averaging more than that for 11 years.

"We were half if not two-thirds less in Rockford than in Cedar Rapids on an average annual basis," he said. (story continues below chart)

Ciabatti said the city had a lot of construction going through its system each year even before the city’s flood recovery in the last four years.

His figures shows a drop in construction starts in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2010, compared to 2008, 2009 and 2011 and 2012. Even so, there was almost $200 million in construction starts in 2010, Ciabatti said.

By way of comparison, the city of Iowa City has averaged $136 million a year in the valuation of construction starts over 11 years, according to city records there.

Ciabatti said he reviewed construction statistics for cities of comparable size to Cedar Rapids, and found Cedar Rapids besting them. "Are you sure these numbers are correct (for Cedar Rapids)?" he was asked by one city.

"These numbers definitely show that Cedar Rapids is on the move," Ciabatti said. "Nobody (of comparable size) is doing this level of construction."
 
 
 

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