Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 15, 2020
Construction activity in Little Rock, both residential and commercial, was a mixed bag in 2019, with housing showing some signs of improvement while commercial and industrial construction decreased. Housing and commercial activity is concentrated along the western edge of the city, in the corridor beyond Chenal Parkway.
Little Rock’s 2019 Annual Urban Development Report tracks construction and related activity to monitor growth in 30 planning districts. Statistics are based on permits issued by the city. On the residential side, the report shows that single-family new construction still has not returned to pre-recession levels.
From 2000-09, the average number of housing units added per year in Little Rock was 982; 63% of those were single-family. Since 2010, that average has been 998 units, with 35% classified as single-family, according to Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Arkansas Economic Development Institute.
Single-family housing had 391 units in 2019, up 26% from 310 units in 2018. More than 62% of the new units are in the western edges of the city.
Multifamily continued to show growth over the year with 897 requests for multifamily housing permits, an increase of 66.7% from the 538 units the year before. The largest development was a 331-unit complex at Rahling Road, just south of Chenal Parkway.
Pakko noted that there was a 51% increase in total housing units in Little Rock when combining growth in the single-family and multifamily sectors.
There was some “lumpiness” in the office and commercial construction sectors, according to Pakko.
Statistics show a sharp drop from 2018 activity, but Pakko points out that any one project in a given year — like the 2018 permit issued for Bank OZK’s new headquarters — can skew year-over-year comparisons.
OZK’s offices include a 248,000-square-foot building and an 111,000-square-foot underground parking garage. By comparison, there were no projects over 25,000 square feet last year.
For office space construction, permits were approved for 48,753 square feet of space, a big drop of 84% from 321,050 square feet in 2018. Construction spending on offices was estimated at $9.3 million, down 92% from $113.2 million.
Commercial construction was $26.5 million, down 46% from $49.1 million in 2018. That included a decline of nearly 41% in square footage from the previous year.
Again, west Little Rock dominated with the area adding nearly 113,000 square feet of the total 249,679 square feet added in the city. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites on East Fourth Street was the largest project at 68,750 square feet.
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