01/12/09 — Construction wavered in Wayne, Goldsboro in 2008

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Construction wavered in Wayne, Goldsboro in 2008

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 12, 2009 1:46 PM

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A construction crew works on completing the framework for a new home off Shelly Drive in Goldsboro.

New residential and commercial construction fluctuated in 2008 in Goldsboro and Wayne County, reflecting the ongoing economic downturn that is sending many families into foreclosure and prodding companies to cut costs, but both the city and county also showed evidence of growth.

The city issued only 23 commercial construction permits in 2008, a sharp decline from the 71 approved in 2007. The $43 million price tag for commercial projects in 2007 shrank to the comparatively small amount of only $9 million in 2008.

"That's just a sign of the economic slowdown," said Ed Cianfarra, Goldsboro chief building inspector.

Several factors may have played into the construction figures, he said.

Smaller and medium-sized businesses are having difficulty getting financing for new ventures.

"You'll see a holdoff," said Cianfarra. "Large companies won't have that as much."

But even larger companies are hesitant to expand, he said.

The dip in the amount spent on permitted projects may be due to the data itself.

"Commercial projects can be anything from a little mom and pop store, to an industrial site," said Cianfarra.

It could also be that 2008 was a year for following up on some of 2007's more major commercial construction projects, like the Memorial Commons shopping center on Wayne Memorial Drive, he said.

"You may have one year the large hollow shell is built, and the next year, they finish the smaller stores," said Cianfarra.

Residential construction within the city experienced growth last year, with new-build housing permits rising from 92 issued in 2007 to 123 in 2008.

The numbers may be due to holdovers and follow-ups from the previous year, according to Cianfarra.

"It's projects that were already planned," he said.

However, the valuation of the residential construction projects fell from $16 million to $10 million.

Many people and companies are still waiting for the economy to turn around before building or expanding.

"I'm hoping we'll begin to see a reversal in summer or fall (of 2009)," said Cianfarra.

Wayne County issued 100 fewer permits for new homes in 2008 than it issued in 2007, but saw growth in commercial construction.

The county approved 268 residential construction permits in 2008, and the $57 million valuation of new home construction in 2007 dropped to $40 million in 2008.

Even so, the bottoming out effect is surprisingly slight.

"We're doing a lot better than expected," said Steven Stroud, county inspections manager. "We're doing a little better than some places are in our area, but still, it's not great."

While things are not as bad as originally predicted, the county housing boom a few years ago will probably not be repeated any time soon, said Stroud.

"I don't think we'll see that again," he said. "The banks, for one, are going to be more careful."

Banks and builders are getting "back to reality," said Stroud.

Commercial construction in the county increased slightly in 2008. The county approved 127 commercial permits in 2008, an increase from the 106 issued in 2007. The total valuation for the projects was $9 million, a boost from the $6 million valuation in 2007.

"We're starting to see a lot more commercial construction," said Stroud.

Usually the city has the most commercial construction, and the county, the most residential construction, he said.

But this year, the numbers are reversed.

"The commercial side seems to be picking up," said Stroud. "We have a lot of work coming in."

Home and business owners in Wayne County poured less money into additions and improvements in 2008. While 228 permits for additions, alterations and conversions were issued in 2007, that number declined to 187 in 2008. The value of the work declined by about $1 million, slipping from $5.6 to $4.6 million.