The city issued more building permits in the first five months of the year than anytime since 2008, while the value of construction projects underway in town continues its upward trend.
As summer construction season gets underway, the city has issued 585 permits for building, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other construction-related work as of May 28, according to city building department records. That’s a 13 percent jump from the same time fame last year, and the highest year-to-date number since 2008, when the city had issued 665 permits through late May.
The total value of all the work covered by the permits through May 28 comes to $88.9 million, up 16 percent from last year. Other than 2011, when valuation was inflated by the $52 million Aspen Valley Hospital expansion, this year’s numbers are the highest since 2008, when $200.1 million worth of permits had been issued through May 28.
“Steady as she goes” was how Aspen’s chief building department official Stephen Kanipe described activity in his office this year.
“The wind is at our backs,” he said.
With construction increasing, “We’re seeing contractors come in that we haven’t seen for a while,” Kanipe added.
Community development department director Chris Bendon said activity in planning, building and engineering is higher than it has been since the downturn, and review agencies are starting to get backlogged. There is a different feel in the department this year compared to last, he said. The engineering department is coming out of a two-week time out during which it did not accept new review requests, so staff could get caught up, he said.
Bendon noted that for much of the last four or five years, many developers have not had a sense of urgency when they applied for a permit, while city staff eagerly awaited any work coming in the door.
“In 2010, 2011, they’d greet people on the stairs on the way down to the building department,” Bendon said.
That sense of urgency for permits to be processed has returned, he said.
At this time last year, the building department hired a new plans examiner, Bendon said. With the added work, the department is now outsourcing some work to contract plans examiners.
“Whatever downturn we were in, we’ve passed that and are on the cycle back up now,” Bendon said.
Local contractor John Olson of John Olson Builder confirmed that activity is increasing.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from people that want to build,” he said. “On the residential side, things are definitely picking up.”