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Signs of times: Yuma-area economy improving
A short 10 weeks after construction began, a new apartment complex in the city's North End is nearing completion.
The complex, being constructed to house farmworkers this coming winter produce season, is bringing new life to a blight where the Chretin's restaurant stood for years.
This and other projects has city of Yuma building official Randy Crist feeling better about construction activity around the community.
“For a while, we didn't have any upcoming projects. But there are more projects in the pipeline.”
He noted that the city's predevelopment meeting schedule is booked and a number of projects are either under way or in the planning stages.
“There are some signs on paper that we're improving. I feel a lot better about what's happening in Yuma in the construction industry. I hope the trend continues.”
That includes commercial as well as residential activity.
Through the end of July, the city's Department of Community Development had issued permits with a total valuation of $43 million, Crist reported. Last year was about the same at $44 million.
But this year's total doesn't yet reflect some of the major projects in the pipeline, he said.
For example, $14 million in valuations for the next project by Yuma Regional Medical Center, the build-out of the remaining two floors in the patient tower, isn't yet on the city's books.
Plans currently are under review by city staff for the fifth floor build-out, and plans are expected in about three weeks for the third floor.
“Both are very large jobs,” Crist said.
Those two projects will complete the patient tower. Into the future, YRMC is planning a new emergency department and development of a cancer treatment center.
A variety of other medical facilities also are either under construction or in the pipeline. And construction of the new home for Yuma Gastro Center on 16th Street has been finished.
There's also a lot of development activity at the Yuma International Airport, Crist said.
A current project there is construction of the Amelia Earhart Hangar in the airport's Defense Contractor Complex. Million Air, the airport's fueler, is developing the 18,000-square-foot building to attract defense contractors and other potential tenants. LPC Construction of Yuma is the general contractor of the building.
In addition, the Aviation Industrial Complex is out to bid by the Yuma County Airport Authority. The approximately 40,000-square-foot complex will include hangars and office space that can be used by defense contractors either on a short- or long-term basis.
Next door, construction is bustling at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma as the base prepares for the arrival of the F-35 Joint Striker Fighter. While that activity is putting local contractors and their employees to work, the projects don't figure into the city's construction numbers.
Across town, the new John M. Roll Federal Courthouse is moving closer to completion. Located on 1st Street next to the former Yuma City Hall, the courthouse is expected to provide impetus to North End redevelopment. It is slated for completion in February.
While not in the city, the planned Candlewood Suites hotel at Yuma Proving Ground also will be an important project for the community, Crist said.
Other government projects include the recently completed tenant improvements for the Veterans Affairs medical clinic located at the Big Curve Shopping Center and planned improvements to the Arizona Game and Fish facility.
Along with the government, airport and medical building activity, there has been some significant commercial activity, Crist observed. The new Toyota dealership is expected to be ready for occupancy by early October, and the new Honda dealership is under construction. A third new dealership, the Chevrolet showroom, was completed late last year.
Restaurant activity continues, Crist said. Linn's Grand Buffet is under construction at the corner of Pacific Avenue and 16th Street, while across the street two projects are planned. One is to be a second location for Asia Star, while permits are ready to be issued for the long-awaited Chick-fil-A. And Chipotle Grill was recently completed at Yuma Palms Regional Center.
On another note, Planet Fitness and Fretworks recently opened their doors at Las Palmillas after completion of tenant improvements.
Crist also is heartened by what he sees as improvement in the housing industry. He noted that in the first seven months of the year, the city issued permits for 116 single-family houses.
“We're doing way better than last year,” he said, noting that only 80 housing permits were issued during the same time last year and a total of 124 for all of 2011.
Much of the housing activity has been at Livingston Ranch and at the Saguaro and Ocotillo subdivisions being developed by Hall Brothers.
There's also some apartment building activity, Crist said. One is an expansion to La Posada, a lower-income apartment complex near the Yuma Main Library.
The other is the Palo Verde Apartments, the farmworker housing project being developed by Jim Waits and Ron Martin at 485 S. 15th Ave. where Chretin's once stood. It will have 29 two-bedroom apartments designed to hold eight to a unit.
It's scheduled for completion by Sept. 15 and will make that deadline, Crist said.
That it will, is a testament to the cooperation of the city's Department of Community Development, Martin said.
To expedite the project, Crist and city building inspector Bill Mitchell have been meeting with the architect and contractor, Chris Hengl of Yuma, to work out issues.
“It's a good project,” Crist said. “It had been a blighted area with the old vacant restaurant that people had been getting inside and vandalizing. Now it will be a nice new complex.”