CEDAR FALLS — Construction activity in Waterloo-Cedar Falls has been balanced across all areas, and the area is headed for another solid year, locals officials said.
“We’re making strides with development and redevelopment in every sector of the city,” said Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. “That’s a positive sign.”
Waterloo enjoyed its second-best construction year in history when it racked up $127.5 million in building projects during the fiscal year ending last June 30, while housing starts also hit an all-time high.
Cedar Falls Building official Craig Witry said his city tallied $151 million in new construction during the 2015-16 fiscal year.
“Last year was a huge record,” Witry said. “A good year for Cedar Falls is $100 million.”
Midway through the current fiscal year, Cedar Falls has $55 million in construction underway, with more projects in the wings.
“So the pipeline looks good for the second half of the year,” Witry said. “We’ve got a lot of projects in play right now. It’s good. I’m happy.”
Major Cedar Falls commercial projects include Western Home Communities continued construction on the next phases of a $42 million wellness and community center with independent living and skilled nursing cottages on 16 acres west of Prairie Parkway and north of the Cedar Falls Wal-Mart.
From July 1 through Dec. 31, 82 permits have been issued for new homes, including houses, duplexes and town houses.
In all, 82 permits were issued for new homes from July through December 2017. “That’s a good number,” Witry said — up from 51 at this same point a year ago. “We’ll exceed 100 without any doubt” for the fiscal year.”
Those 82 new homes have a total valuation of about $17.6 million — an average of almost $215,000 a house. The 51 permits issued for the same period a year ago had a total valuation of nearly $12.6 million — about $247,000 a house.
Among major projects still in the works, the new Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School is waiting in the wings, as well as two major projects at North Cedar and Orchard Hill elementary schools. While those projects don’t directly contribute to the tax base, Witry said they drive housing growth as new homes are built near the schools for young families wishing to send their children there.
Among major commercial projects, the so-called retail “power center” where a new Hobby Lobby store is located continues to add tenants, adding Ross Dress for Less and a Dollar Tree store. In addition, a large amount of multi-family housing is being constructed along Ashworth Lane along Greenhill Road.
“I haven’t seen a January as busy since I’ve been here,” Witry said.
Other major projects include $1.1 million for Slumberland’s renovation of the old College Square Hy-Vee building as that store relocates back into Cedar Falls along renovated University Avenue, from a to-be-renovated stretch of the same road a few miles east in Waterloo. A permit has been issued for South Dakota-based Ashley Furniture’s new $7.2 million warehouse on 2615 Capital Way in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park. Company officials also are looking for a site for a new retail store in Cedar Falls.
Cedar Valley Properties has a $1.5 million commercial/residential project at 923 W. 23d St. at the former location of a house just east of University Book & Supply in the College Hill business district. A separate project is proposed at 2125 College St., on the approximate former location of the Great Wall restaurant, destroyed by fire last April.
Also, Rose Co. has taken out a permit for a $1.5 million projecct at 1304 Technology Parkway, not far from the Mudd Group complex of offices colloquially known locally as “Muddville.”
Waterloo Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson was particularly pleased with a boost in new housing construction in Waterloo.
The 99 new single-family homes started in the last fiscal year were the most the city recorded in modern history, with 43 going up in the Crossroads Estates subdivision, 18 in Audubon Park, 16 on Ravenwood Circle and others scattered across the city.
“The recent housing surges we’ve seen have been a blend of people looking to build new homes in Waterloo and developers answering that need with new subdivision development,” Anderson said.
A city program granting three years of tax abatement for new homes played a part, but the city needed developers to create new lots for builders. It also worked with Waterloo Community Schools on infill housing lots at former school sites.
“That helps the overall residential fabric of the city in terms of new construction, helping to stabilize and improve existing neighborhoods as well,” Anderson said.
Some major commercial projects, which drove up construction totals in the last fiscal year, are still underway today, including $20.3 million renovation of a former John Deere Westfield Avenue building into a Marriott Hotel and conference center; a $14.2 million addition at the ConAgra Foods plant on Midport Boulevard; a $9.5 million Grand Crossing Condominiums, a four-story, 67-unit development at West Jefferson Street and Mullan Avenue downtown, and a $10 million historic renovation of the KWWL-TV Building at 500 E. Fourth St.
Waterloo had only issued construction permits for $34.8 million for the first six months of the current fiscal year, July through December 2016. That’s below the $38.9 mllion in permits at the same point last year.
But Anderson believed a $100 million year was still in sight.
“I think we still have a very good year ahead of us,” he said. “We have over $25 million already announced in projects at Logan Plaza, Love’s Travel Stop, Taylor Veterinary, Kwik Star at Ansborough, Black Hawk Gymnastics, the Grand Crossing Phase II and some other housing projects in downtown Waterloo.
“Add to that the unannounced projects we are working on, which is a good mix of smaller commercial and industrial projects as well as some larger industrial projects, and we should be aiming right at our $100 million mark goal,” Anderson added.