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2012 building record to stand

Crews install steel beams on Friday to support the addition to the Dickinson Recreation Center, which will be home to a second sheet of ice.

Dickinson’s record $389 million new construction permit value record set in 2012 stands another year.

After back-to-back record-breaking years, building slowed a bit in Dickinson in 2013.

“This is the first year in many years that we have not surpassed the proceeding years,” said Ed Courton, community development director for the city of Dickinson.

While year-to-date November 2013 saw a higher permit value over year-to-date November 2012, $307 million versus $304 million, Courton did not see December permit values meeting the $85 million that December 2012 saw.

“Will we get another $82 million? I doubt it,” Courton said. “This month we only have $15 million.”

Dickinson lagged in commercial, single-family and multi-family housing in 2013 compared to 2012, mostly due to the need for critical water and sewer infrastructure needs, Courton said. But large projects, like Menards, the new St. Joseph’s Hospital, the new Sanford Clinic and the Public Works Building, helped keep Dickinson’s permit values up in 2013, even though total new building permits were down over 2012 — 830 year-to-date November 2013 versus 1,379 year-to-date November 2012.

“We’re changing history as we speak,” said Ken Callahan, president of the North Dakota Association of Builders who also works for Montana-Dakota Utilities in Williston. “With Williston and Dickinson and Minot — I tell people that’s the triangle. The old triangle used to be Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck.”

Williston had a similar slight decline from 2012 to 2013 with all November year-to-date building permits — including those for manufactured homes and alterations to commercial and residential structures — dropping to $349 million from $418 million the previous year.

“Our housing unit numbers have been up, just not the actual permit numbers,” said Kelly Aberle, office manager for the Williston Building Department.

Commercial and single-family permits decreased for Williston, but it gained many more apartments in 2013 than it did in 2012 — from 31 permits totalling 997 units in 2012 to 49 permits totalling 1,501 units in 2013.

A large fire on Dec. 13 destroyed two new apartment buildings comprised of more than 40 units each in Williston.

The number of apartments also increased in Dickinson — it added 554 as of Nov. 30 in 2013 — but more were approved in 2012 — 846 for the whole year.

“I would anticipate that for the community — and this is a great thing for the community — that next year, next spring to next summer, that we should start to see a softening of that increase in apartments,” Courton said. “I would say spring to summer we should start seeing a progressive decline on the rents.”

A similar trend is happening in Williston, Callahan said.

“It’s starting to come down, but not fast enough,” Callahan said.

The weather was a large factor in the building discrepancy from 2012 to 2013. The spring of 2012 was unseasonable warm, letting developers get a jump start on building, where the spring of 2013 saw some late snow storms.

“Many of our developments were delayed several months due to the adverse weather that we had in the spring,” Courton said.

In Dickinson, the city needed to catch up with water and sewer capacity before it could connect any more large developments to it’s system, Courton said.

“In 2012 we were just starting our modeling for sewer and water, so we didn’t hold up and developments based upon sewer and water capacity because the study hadn’t been completed,” Courton said. “Now that we have those models, we’ve held up some projects and plats because we knew that we didn’t have sewer and water capacity.”

In addition to holding up some construction, the city had engineering staff turnover, which caused a backlog, Courton said.

Other factors helped make 2012 a record-breaking year. There was a large amount of annexations — roughly 1,400 acres — and developers started to run out of existing lots, driving land prices up in 2013.

“The average single-family lot in Dickinson is roughly $60,000,” Courton said. “The prime market is between $200,000 and $260,000. If you buy a lot at $60,000, it’s difficult to build a house below $300,000.”

Next year should be somewhere between the record-breaking 2012 and 2013, Courton said. The city will be putting the majority of the needed infrastructure in place in the next building season.

“I’m looking at next year to be a very robust year,” Courton said.

Press Photos by Katherine Grandstrand

Above, crews install steel beams on Friday to support the addition to the Dickinson Recreation Center, which will be home to a second sheet of ice. Below, Menards, shown here Friday, plans to open in 2014.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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