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Construction starts cut in half

New starts of construction work in Evanston in the first half of this year fell sharply from last year’s pace.

Building permit fees for the first six months of the year are down 58 percent from the same period a year ago.

Even excluding the month of March, which saw an unusual spike in 2005 when permits were issued for the Sherman Plaza project downtown, the year-over-year decline is still 45 percent.

The decline may not be apparent yet on the street, because major projects, like Sherman Plaza, take 18 months or more to complete, while the permit fees are paid up front. Sherman Plaza itself is scheduled for completion this fall.

So far this year, 38 percent of the construction value of building permits issued has been for renovation of existing residential buildings, with 24 percent for existing businesses.

New single family construction has totalled 7 percent, new multi-family 9 percent and condo conversions 2 percent. New business construction has totalled 7 percent.

Schools and churches account for 12 prcent of the construction work, miscellaneous uses 12 percent and garages 1 percent.

There’s been essentially no construction work on new or existing industrial uses so far this year.

City officials projected a 20 percent decline in building permit revenue for the fiscal year that started March 1 when they adopted the city budget in February because nothing of the size of the Sherman Plaza project appeared to be in the pipeline.

Building permit fees last year topped $4 million, and represented about five percent of the city’s general fund revenue.

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