Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Idaho Falls posts $83.5 million in building permits for 2012, surpassing even 2007

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Construction in Idaho Falls came roaring back in 2012, thanks in large part to new schools being built and a new research building for the Idaho National Laboratory.

The city Building Department recorded $83.5 million in permits, a number bigger than even the pre-crash year of 2007, when $51.4 million in new permits were issued. Of the 2012 total, $58.2 million -- nearly 70 percent -- was commercial construction.

Preliminary data for November from the Idaho Department of Labor showed the jobless rate in the Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area at 5.7 percent, 1.1 percentage points below the state number, 6.8 percent.

Here's what happened in 2012. In March, voters in Idaho Falls School District approved $53 million in bonds to replace four outdated elementary schools, plus remodeling at several of the district's other schools. It was the third time the district had appealed to patrons for money to replace aged facilities -- Dora Erickson, Ethel Boyes, Longfellow and Edgemont. The super-majority restriction -- under which at least two-thirds of the district's voters needed to vote yes for the bonds to pass -- had been a barrier twice, but this time the yes votes amounted to 78 percent.

"I think the patrons and parents had a much better sense of what the need was," said Margaret Wimborne, spokeswoman for the school district.

Bids were awarded for the Dora Erickson and Ethel Boyes projects in August. Bids for the other two projects are expected this year, with work continuing into 2014. The same two-story floor plan is being used for all four schools, to save on design and construction costs.

For the construction firm of Bateman-Hall, which is managing the work for the district, the projects couldn't have come at a better time. "We're thrilled the school district was able to pass their bond," project manager Jason Ginn said in May.

The INL began construction in March on a new $50 million Research and Education facility, a three-story building with dozens of offices and laboratories for conducting experiments and performing energy security research. Expected to open this year, it will also include space for conducting laboratory conferences, employee meetings and community outreach activities.

Other high points of the construction year in Idaho Falls included the completion of the Marriott Residence Inn on Broadway, and the start of a $3 million remodel of the Idaho Falls Surgical Center and Idaho Falls Recovery Center into Idaho Falls Oncology, a cancer treatment center.

As for for 2013, in addition to the two new schools in District 91, Teton Volkswagen anticipates opening its new dealership on Sunnyside Road in November. In Bonneville County, Georgia-based Cives Steel has the go-ahead from local officials for a fabrication plant near Ucon. And as soon as the weather permits, Melaleuca will be moving in earnest on its $50 million, 371,000-square-foot corporate headquarters near Interstate 15 Exit 113.