Eau Claire posts 2nd best year for construction

Feb. 15—EAU CLAIRE — Builders took out permits representing $276.9 million in construction last year in the city — far above average and close to the record.

A major factor that made 2021 a banner year for construction in Eau Claire was a surge in new apartment buildings.

“Multi-family really pulled their weight,” said Ryan Petrie, associate city planner.

Three of the top five new buildings that were permitted in 2021 and under construction now are apartment buildings.

Petrie compiled a summary of all building permits issued last year for new construction and remodeling work in the city. Last year’s activity was about 68% higher than the $165 million average annual building permit valuation from 2011-2020.

One of the highlights of the summary is the 489 new apartments permitted last year — a new record for the city and far above Eau Claire’s yearly average of 173.

Construction of twin homes and duplexes was also above the norm with 86 of those dwellings given the OK in 2021 versus 50 in a typical year.

Single-family housing did not see the same rise though with last year’s 72 homes peeking just above Eau Claire’s 73-house average.

Petrie said the rise in building materials and labor costs during 2021 could’ve played a factor in the growth of different kinds of housing.

The average cost of a new single family home reached a new record of nearly $289,000 last year — up about $45,000 from 2020.

The price of an average twin home or duplex rose even higher — almost hitting $360,000, which is $71,500 higher than a year before — but creates two dwellings instead of just one.

Big buildings

Last year ended $18.7 million shy of the record $295.6 million worth of construction projects that received permits in 2017.

That year’s permits featured major projects including the Marshfield Clinic Hospital and its associated cancer center, Mills Fleet Farm, the YMCA Tennis Center and renovations to UW-Eau Claire’s largest dormitory.

While no single project permitted during 2021 had quite the same value as a new hospital or big-box retail store, there were numerous projects with high price tags.

Last year’s summary noted there were 43 building permits with over $1 million in construction attached to them.

“We believe that’s higher than normal,” Petrie said.

The biggest single building permit taken out in 2021 is tied to building the new Transportation Education Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s West Campus.

Spots two through four on the city’s list are for apartment buildings under construction now in the city’s downtown and on the south side.

Coming in at No. 5 is the new Children’s Museum of Eau Claire under construction downtown.

Though it’s not new construction, the extensive remodeling and expansion of Eau Claire’s downtown library also was a significant project that added to the city’s total amount of development approved in 2021. The multiple companies working on L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library took out permits last year for a combined total of $15.3 million in upgrades to the building, according to city records.

While housing and public/nonprofit entities had the highest-dollar amounts in 2021’s summary, there were also numerous new buildings and remodeling work for businesses.

New bank and credit union locations, shops and buildings made to accommodate industrial businesses were all included in last year’s building permits.