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VOL. 118 | NO. 231 | Tuesday, December 21, 2004

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By Andy Meek

Construction Activity Remains Strong

Downtown development contributes to04 increase


The Daily News

The resurgence of interest in Downtown Memphis continues to have a major impact on the areas construction market, driving activity this year above peaks reached in 2003 and 2002. And its only one of several factors behind a strong increase in the number of building permits filed over the last two years.

Continued growth. From Dec. 1, 2003, to Nov. 30, 2004, 11,555 building permits totaling $1.52 billion were filed in Shelby County, according to The Daily News Public Records Database, www.memphisdailynews.com. Thats up from 11,307 permits totaling $1.29 billion filed in the same period of 2003 and 10,468 permits totaling $1.08 billion filed in the same period of 2002.

The numbers include permits filed with the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Construction Code Enforcement, which oversees construction in Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County, as well as the municipalities of Lakeland, Arlington and Germantown. The totals include permits for residential and commercial properties, as well as remodels and additions.

In Memphis alone, building permits in the period reached 7,188, up from 6,874 in the same period of 2003 and 6,880 in the same period of 2002.

Downtown development. One reason for the increase in filings is the fact that more construction projects are being pursued Downtown, according to several Memphis builders.

Downtown has definitely increased a good deal from what it was four or five years ago, said Brett Grinder, vice president of administration for Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. Theres a huge resurgence, with First Tennessee Bank redoing their building and several law firms relocating and revamping their spaces Downtown.

Grinder, Taber & Grinder is the general contractor for First Tennessees nearly $40 million renovation of its Downtown headquarters at 165 Madison Ave. Its one of several projects Grinder said has led to the companys marked increase in construction activity this year. Between Dec. 1, 2003, and Nov. 30, 2004, the company filed 58 building permits totaling $6.3 million. That figure is down from 50 permits totaling $54.6 million filed in the same period the previous year.

Commercial projects. Other projects the company is currently involved with include construction of a new $30 million library at Rhodes College, several industrial and interior-finish projects, as well as an office building for a group of attorneys going up at Sanderlin Avenue and Mendenhall Road, Grinder said.

Commercial work has definitely increased a great deal, he said. A lot of interior-finish type work or lease renewal-type work seems to be coming into play. And office work and then the industrial market looks like its going to be very strong for the first and second quarters of next year, which it hasnt been in years past.

Prime location. In terms of prime locations for new construction activity, Lee Patton, co-owner of Patton & Taylor Enterprises, agreed that the Downtown market continues to attract new projects and attention from builders.

There is quite a bit going on Downtown, and theres quite a bit of condo activity, he said. I would say over half our business now is going Downtown, and a lot of it is this bid work. And we see a lot of work coming up in the springtime for these condo projects and rehabs.

Commercial projects are the companys main ticket at the moment, he said, and nearly all of those are occurring in and around Downtown.

Were not really bidding on any new multifamily, and were not doing anything really outside of Downtown. Thats where everything weve got is coming up.

Patton said the company is bidding on several rehab-to-condo conversion projects involving the conversion of old warehouses into condominium units. The company filed a $7.9 million permit in August for a condo-related project at 648 Riverside Drive.

Around town. Downtown is one of several strong areas at the moment. Arlingtons 38002 ZIP code also has seen strong activity over the last two years. From Dec. 1, 2003, to Nov. 30, 2004, 433 permits totaling $66.7 million were filed in the 38002 ZIP code, down from 732 permits totaling $112.2 million in 2003.

And while the number of permits filed in East Memphis ZIP code 38117 has fluctuated recently, construction activity in the area has remained strong. From Dec. 1, 2003, to Nov. 30, 2004, 371 permits totaling $33.9 million were filed in the 38117 ZIP code, a slight decrease from 398 filed in the same period of 2003 and from 429 filed in the same period of 2002.

Southeast retail. Beyond that, Todd Wallace, owner of Horizon Construction, said the southeast portion of the county has been another attractive market for builders.

Weve seen big increases in retail activity there, he said. And were not seeing so much out at the Wolfchase area, because that market is saturated. I think it will continue trending farther out east to the Collierville area once the new mall is built.

Wallace said several factors are driving overall construction activity in the region. In addition to the economy, the citys growth patterns are behind much of the activity, he said.

The economy affects it, but were also seeing a growth pattern for the city still driving out east, he said. I think because of the population growth out toward the east, whether it be up Highway 64 out toward Oakland and that way, or the opposite way out toward Collierville, I think thats the reason were seeing a lot of retail development over there.


PROPERTY SALES 124 481 17,865
MORTGAGES 127 530 20,565
BUILDING PERMITS 195 891 36,836
BANKRUPTCIES 52 262 11,426