Permit numbers show downtown boom

Published on Thu, Oct 3, 2002
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Permit numbers show downtown boom

When Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic looks at the numbers on construction in Blaine over the last few decade, he doesn’t see much.
“Overall it’s been tending fairly flat,” he said, looking at bar charts showing the value of new construction and building permits issued every years since 1992. Total building values range from a low of $6 million in 1996 to a spike of over $17 million in 1999. Tomsic explained that the spike in 1999 corresponded to the Port of Bellingham’s reconstruction of Blaine Harbor, not to a market upswing. “You can see the big years are usually big public projects,” he said. “There will be another spike this year with the school. Those projects really make a difference.”

While the big picture is pretty bland, Tomsic said the details of building in Blaine show some interesting trends. The construction boom in Semiahmoo peaked in 1998 and is on its way down, as indicated by a dwindling number of building permits for single family homes in west Blaine. “Central Blaine is doing the opposite,” Tomsic said. “There’s some infilling going on and that’s great.” In 1998 there were 28 permits issued for single family homes in Semiahmoo, and only one issued for central Blaine. The numbers have been growing closer ever since and in 2001 17 permits were issued for Semiahmoo and 14 in central Blaine.

Building in Semiahmoo still tends to be more extravagant. Even with almost the same number of permits issued, construction in Semiahmoo accounted for two thirds of construction value. “It’s really disproportionate,” Tomsic said.

With the exception of 1993 and 1999 when commercial and residential construction values were almost even, residential activity has accounted for more than half of construction activity in Blaine over the last decade. However, commercial construction routinely made up a third of new value. “I was surprised,” Tomsic said. “Commercial activity is more than I thought it would be.”

Tomsic said new construction is only part of the picture of the growing total valuation of Blaine properties, and the market has favored the community. While new construction made up 34 percent of the growth in property values over the last decade, 66 percent came from reappraisals. .
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