Cranking up construction projects
At just about the same time as COVID-19 preventative measures were shutting things down, the city of Woodburn experienced a spike in building permits.
For the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020, Woodburn issued 448 permits providing for $56,100,031 worth of construction projects, easily eclipsing the previous year's $41,829,210. Perhaps even more striking is that the bulk of those permits – 179 for $38,445,544 – were issued between March 1 and June 30.
"We just haven't seen that depression or downturn that a lot of communities have seen," Woodburn Community Development Director Chris Kerr said.
Woodburn Building Official Ted Cuno provided data that shows this past fiscal year as one of the most lucrative in over the last 30 years in terms of valuation of property for which permits have been issued. The city saw a spurt in the mid-1990s with $45,321,371 in projects in 1996-97 and $55,519,210 in 1997-98.
The only year surpassing this past fiscal year was 2001-02 with 679 permits for $71,214,515 in value.
City planners speculate a number of factors may be at play in the recent spike.
Cuno said among them is that last year the city converted to a new electronic permit system, which make the process much easier for developers. He described the previous system as comparatively cumbersome, requiring more steps in the permitting process, more room for mistakes and, of course, more time correcting those mistakes and ironing out wrinkles.
Builders who may have applied for a single permit at a time in the past have been less hesitant about applying for multiple permits at a time with the new system.
"Even with this COVID-19 (complications), E-permitting, for the most part, makes things much smoother, and allows for 24/7 to pull a permit," Cuno said.
Among the bigger projects currently on radar or in the hopper are Pacific Valley Apartments, a 204-unit complex sited in the 1300 block of Pacific Highway 99E; Smith Creek Development, which developers anticipate to provide 714 dwelling units in west Woodburn; the Heritage Addition on Parr Road near Centennial Park; and Hermanson Preserve Apartments in southeast Woodburn in the 400 block of South Highway 99E, a planned 168-unit development with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, which recently received a $7.35 million Local Innovation Fast Track (LIFT) award from the state.
"Woodburn is cooking in terms of development," Kerr said.
Adding to the overall activity have been building projects within Woodburn School District, both bond and non-bond related. The planners said with school being dismissed as part of the strategy to slow spreading of the pandemic, many construction outfits found it an opportune time to complete work.
Kerr speculated that other factors that fortify Woodburn's appeal to developers include its location between the state's two largest metro areas and Woodburn City Council's goals focused on providing housing and civic improvements in infrastructure, such as the recently completed First Street improvements.
"These investments make a difference," Kerr said, pointing out that when developers see the city investing in infrastructure it provides incentives to them.
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