A propose housing development will be built in an area at the end of South Tuttle Road, behind Walmart. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Heavy investment in Clark, Champaign counties in 2019

Area counties saw several big projects come to life last year after heavy permit values in 2017, and local experts expect this year to be another high dollar year for local developers.

The value of commercial permits is a signal of the amount of investment in the region, but those numbers can vary greatly from year to year. Even in a healthy economy with increased consumer spending and growing development, 2018 didn’t reach the same permit levels as 2017.

Nearly $30 million in new projects were started in 2017 in Springfield, down to $16.8 million in 2018. But much of the investment and construction on permits spilled over into the next year as major projects can take years to complete.

“Just because you see the number and the valuation down in 2018 does not mean necessarily that the economy was down,” said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development. “It   just means the timing may have been in 2017 when the permits were filed.”

In 2017, the city pulled 519 permits, but it pulled nearly triple that number at 1,533 last year, despite the sharp decline in total valuation. During a healthy economy, there’s typically an uptick in activity, but it doesn’t always translate to dollar value, he said.

Springfield leaders echoed Bailey’s optimism, with Gaver saying he expects 2019 to outpace 2017. In 2018. the permits were smaller sprinkler, fire alarm and mechanical permits that followed the major construction values of 2017.

“It’s just timing, honestly. I project that in 2019 we’re going to see an uptick because there are a couple of bigger projects that are continuing into 2019,” Hobbs said.

Last year, Topre announced plans of another $73 million expansion. Along with the growth comes 138,000 square feet and 204 jobs at the Champion City Business Park. Topre has had back-to-back expansions since it first built in the city in late 2016.

Silfex also plans to finish its $223 million facility in 2019. When complete, the project will add 400 total jobs to Springfield.

A major housing development near the Tuttle Road Walmart could bring 226 new homes as well. Construction could begin as early as March or April on the 37 acres with homes meant to handle increased hiring in the region.

Other projects include a second phase to senior housing Community Gardens and a $5.5 million parking garage with funds from the state, county and city.

Local investors in Champaign County are working on a proposal for a new Cobblestone hotel in Urbana. Mercy Hospital in Urbana is also continuing facade changes.

A potential downtown project could turn an Urbana building, along with North and South Elementary schools, into affordable senior housing. If that project develops, it could redevelop a longtime eyesore downtown, find a new use for two of the school district’s aging buildings and provide more senior housing options for residents.

Clark County, which has its own building department had $14.6 million invested in permits last year, down slightly from the $15 million in 2017.

Parts of the planned $43 million Speedway expansion could also show up 2019 permits, boosting those values. The expansion could bring 200 new full-time workers over the next few years.