According to HBW’s building activity report for Lee County, a surge in massive commercial projects boosted the economy of Lee County last year. The total value of Lee County construction permits jumped 84% to nearly %1 billion. In 2103, the total construction value for residential and commercial permits totaled $510 million, but the 2014 numbers jumped to $943 million That is still much lower than the $3.9 billion historic peak Lee County had in 2005.
The huge gain is attributed to a handful of mega-projects. The Hertz Global Holdings world headquarters in Estero brought in $30 million, with Estero’s Wal-Mart bringing an additional $13 million. The renovation of the Centurylink Sporks Complex in South Fort Meyers brought $19 million. 206 permits were issued for commercial structures, a 54% increase over 2013. General construction in the county was valued at $144 million, a jump from the $56 million earned in 2013.
2015’s numbers are expected to be strong, but not so strong as last year’s earnings. According to mark Stevens, president of Mark Stevens Construction, “there was a pent-up backlog of projects that were released” when the economy improved, but “If they were going to be repeated we’d hear about them by now.”
One concern for county revenues going into 2015 is the March 13 expiration of the 80% reduction in impact fees for new construction. Gary Tasman, of Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property Southwest Florida, thinks that “clearly this was a year of rebounds for the economy, but the market’s still very fragile for construction. Tasman says that “we’re in a position where we need to let the economy expand a little bit more before we put the brakes on,” because if impact fees rebound to the old rates, “I think you would see an 80 percent decrease in construction this year.”
Stevens predicts a spike in permit pulling prior to the March 13 deadline. “In January, February and March you’re going to see a huge surge of projects go into the building department,” he says, but “April, May and June are going to be pretty slow.”