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Building permit report shows city progressing after disasters

T-R PHOTO BY JOE FISHER — A construction crew for Johnson Construction based in Ames does foundation work on the Marshalltown Lofts project, 20 E. State Street, on Wednesday.

The city’s annual building permit summary showed the most activity in a decade in 2020.

The summer compiles data on the number of building permits issued and the valuation of those projects for the year. It includes alterations to existing dwellings, improvements, entirely new buildings and demolitions.

“We’ve had a lot of activity this past year, which is great.” said Michelle Spohnheimer, director of housing and community development. “A lot of it is in relation to recovery yet from the tornado.”

A total of 241 permits were issued during the calendar year, including 186 building permits and 55 demolitions. The total value of these permits was $67.3 million.

A good deal of those permits were issued in October when 38 building permits and 22 demolitions were approved, the most of the year for one month in each category.

T-R PHOTO BY JOE FISHER — The City of Marshalltown issued 55 building permits for demolition in 2020. Removing dangerous, dilapidated and uninhabitable buildings will continue to be a focus in rebuilding after two natural disasters in the last three years.

Spohnheimer said the derecho was one of the reasons why October was so busy. Several of the demolitions were dwellings. Accessory buildings such as garages being impacted by wind damage accounted for a large number of the permits. Nineteen permits were for altering dwellings.

An indicator to how vast the derecho damage was is in seeing demolitions and improvements being spread throughout the city.

The removal of heavily damaged and unusable buildings has been a priority for the city since the tornado.

“The council actually began three years ago making an effort to deal with dangerous and dilapidated or abandoned buildings in the community. Many of them were abandoned,” Spohnheimer said. “We will continue that goal. The council set the goal for 2021 to demolish 10 properties under that program.”

Spohnheimer expects city administrator Jessica Kinser will be posting bids on some of those projects in the first couple months of the year.

“Those will be done in little groupings as we’re able to acquire properties that are abandoned,” Spohnheimer said. “Many have been abandoned for years if not decades. It definitely is a blight on the community.”

The largest quantity of permits issued for downtown projects was relating to demolitions, according to Spohnheimer.

November saw the largest improvement valuation of any month in the last three years by far. The November improvement value was $20.4 million.

“That was the Unity Point permit that was issued,” Spohnheimer said. “The valuation of that project is significant.”

September was a high mark for new living units being added. Fifty living units will be added to Marshalltown with the permit for the Marshalltown Lofts project being issued.

Housing will continue to be a focal point for improvements.

“Housing is critical for community growth,” the housing director said. “We continue to talk to developers on potential new subdivisions. We hope 2021 will be another year of good growth on the housing front.”

With the high amount of work done in 2020, Spohnheimer said it appears Marshalltown is on the path toward its goal of overall growth.

“It sends a very positive message out that we are rebuilding. We do have a lot of really great things happening with new housing, Unity Point, McFarland,” she said. “These types of projects show growth in the community. We knew it would take a couple of years for this. I hope to see something similar in nature in the next couple years.”

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Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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