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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Private projects drive construction boost

Commercial spending highest since 2006

Jacob Williams, left, and Anthony Pendergraft carry glass at the Washington State University health sciences building on the Riverpoint campus, the largest single Spokane-area project last year. (File)

Spokane’s commercial construction spending rebounded in 2012 because of several large government and hospital projects that brought year-end totals to levels not seen since 2006.

Area construction companies took out permits for $362 million in commercial projects in Spokane County last year. That’s up sharply from the $288 million in commercial jobs in the county in 2011 and $246 million in 2010.

“Things are better for sure in commercial construction,” said Bob Askins, vice president of Shea Graham Construction, based in Spokane Valley. “But the 2011 numbers as a baseline were pretty low. Even so, things are getting better.”

Graham Construction had two of the bigger commercial projects of 2012: the large Biomedical and Health Sciences Building on the Riverpoint WSU Spokane campus and a series of renovations at Deaconess Hospital.

Those two projects, and expansion of Sacred Heart’s emergency room building, helped account for the surge in commercial projects last year inside Spokane’s city limits.

The city in 2012 accounted for $248 million, or 68 percent of all commercial projects within Spokane County. The numbers are based on values used to estimate costs for building permits.

The city’s 2012 commercial total is roughly double the $125 million for projects during 2011.

Private projects generally account for 70 percent to 77 percent of all construction in Spokane County, if private colleges and hospitals are included in the category.

Last year private commercial projects accounted for close to 78 percent, according to Construction Monitor, a national data aggregator.

In the chart accompanying this story, private construction counts for about 67 percent of all city work in 2012. That chart reflects both residential and commerical projects. In the city, private jobs also counted for 78 percent of all commercial work, according to permits.

Tom Reese, director of business development for Lydig Construction, agreed 2012 provided a turnaround. “Bigger projects really made a difference, such as the WSU medical school project,” along with the large Gonzaga University multiuse project that started last year, he said.

Even so, 2012 was challenging enough to force area construction firms, like Lydig and others, to find projects in Idaho, Central Washington and other areas, Reese said.

The 2012 Spokane County list of major projects was dominated by the following public, health care and education buildings:

• WSU’s medical building on the Riverpoint campus, valued at $53 million, was the largest single Spokane-area project.

• Education buildings on the list include the Ferris High School modernization, at $29 million; the new Jefferson Elementary School, at $12.5 million; and a new Spokane Falls Community College building, at $10 million.

• Gonzaga University’s parking and multiuse building, valued at $16 million, landed at No. 3 on the city’s list of largest projects.

• Sacred Heart Medical Center’s emergency room expansion was sixth, at $10.3 million.

Among private commercial projects, the largest was Caterpillar Inc.’s new distribution center on the West Plains. At $30 million, it’s the Spokane area’s second-largest commercial project of 2012.

Another large private project was the new north Spokane Lowe’s retail center, which cost $10.8 million to build.

Residential construction across Spokane County also rebounded in 2012, according to reports provided by Construction Monitor.

Residential construction of all kinds, including demolitions and remodels, totaled $384 million. The year before it was $283 million, which was a dip from 2010, when residential permits totaled $293.4 million.

The largest single residential permit last year was $9.5 million for the Bridgeway Apartments in Kendall Yards. That Greenstone Development complex is expected to be finished this year, adding about 84 apartments and the same number of garage units.