Big spikes in construction last year in Springfield, Champaign County

The value of commercial building permits ballooned more than $50 million in Champaign County last year compared to 2016, and the city of Springfield also saw a spike due to large projects like Topre and investments at Wittenberg University.

The value of commercial permits is one signal of the amount of investment in the region, local leaders said, but they also noted various issues can affect the results year to year. Officials in both Clark and Champaign County said they’re expecting 2018 to be another strong year for investment.

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“2017 was a really strong year and I’m looking at 2018 to be even stronger,” said Jene Gaver, Springfield’s chief building official. He noted the city expects additional construction at Topre’s manufacturing site this year and more investment downtown.

The city of Springfield saw a big jump in construction values to about $29.3 million, up from about $11.3 million in 2016, according to information from the city.

Wittenberg kicked off a project last year to build a roughly $40 million indoor athletic facility and make improvements to some existing buildings.

And Topre, a Japanese manufacturing firm, began work on a $55 million dollar project to build a new manufacturing facility at the Champion City Business Park, a roughly 30-acre industrial site at the intersection of Lagonda and Belmont avenues.

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The city saw 1,494 commercial construction permits filed in 2015 in Springfield, for a value of about $23.5 million, Gaver said. The next year, 1,564 permits were filed, but the value fell to about $11.3 million. Last year, 1,519 permits were filed in 2017, when the values rebounded to about $29.3 million.

Clark County, which has its own building department, saw a slight dip from about $16.3 million in 2016 to about $15 million last year, although local officials said the majority of investment in Clark County usually takes place in the city limits.

The value of construction permits filed with Champaign County’s building regulations department was about $31.3 million in 2016. But that number swelled to more than $83.4 million last year, due largely to major projects like new construction at Urbana City Schools, investments at local medical facilities and a roughly $12 million project by Navistar to build a new distribution center on Phoenix Drive.

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“We are looking forward to further investment opportunities in 2018,” said Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the Champaign Economic Partnership. “The clean-up of the former Q3 JMC property on Miami St. is on track to be ready for redevelopment in 2018. This is a great asset to Urbana and Champaign County. It is currently zoned for manufacturing with all utilities on site. We are anxious to continue working on the possibility of a new hotel and revitalization of Urbana North Elementary, South Elementary and the Douglas Hotel, along with the potential of continue growth of other existing businesses.”

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Several factors can skew the values, including if there happens to be a number of major projects in a given year. And the results depend on when the company or contractor pays for the permit that the construction value gets captured.

But more companies are investing in Clark County in recent years, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

“It’s a good sign, absolutely,” Hobbs said. “We are seeing more companies making investments in capital, which wouldn’t show up necessarily in building permits but we’re also seeing physical expansions as a result of increased capital.”

He’s optimistic 2018 will continue to bring additional investment to the region.

“I certainly feel that there is some momentum here,” Hobbs said. “We had a year last year with investment and job growth that are historic highs for us. Those are very good signs and I see no indication that in 2018 other than the fact it’s going to continue. Our pipeline is very strong right now both on the employment side and capital infrastructure.”

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