In one of the fastest growing cities in Colorado, a push is officially on to build more than 5,500 new homes between now and 2025.
City officials in Greeley say the combined effects of an ongoing population boom coupled with a decline in new home construction during the Great Recession has created a significant gap between demand and supply.
To make matters even more challenging, the price of existing homes in Greeley have in recent years steadily increased. Earlier this year, the National Association of Home Builders reported that Greeley, with a median home price of $362,000, is now the 50th most expensive place in the country to buy a home.
In response, members of the Greeley City Council have given their unanimous approval to an ambitious and sweeping housing construction plan designed to address the problem.
That plan, the result of a housing accessibility task force that met for most of the last year, includes recommendations for land use zoning adjustments, reduced minimum lot sizes for homes, and detached home construction.
The plan is also designed to offer a series of public incentives for developers to build more affordable housing.
Additional new home construction may also be spurred, according to the plan, through an increased use of private activity bonds, as well as land trusts that could be used for shared equity home ownership programs.
Greeley officials are hoping that in a city whose population has doubled from the 1990s to more than 105,000 today, largely as a result of a booming area oil and gas industry, the next commercial boom will be made up of single and multi-family housing construction.
By Garry Boulard
A report issued by a Washington think tank is noting what it calls a historic low level of state spending on infrastructure projects, and urging across-the-board spending increases.
That report, It’s Time for States to Invest in Infrastructure, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says that not only is the current level of state infrastructure investment below its pre-Great Recession levels, but that its share of the Gross Domestic Product, at just under 2 percent, is at its lowest point since the early 1980s.
“The condition of roads, bridges, schools, water treatment plants, and other physical assets greatly influences the economy’s ability to function and grow,” says the report, adding that “commerce requires well-maintained roads, railroads, airports, and ports so that manufacturers can obtain raw materials and parts and deliver finished products to consumers.”
According to the most recent statistics compiled by the Center, capital spending as a share of total state spending is at 8.6 percent in Arizona, 11.8 percent in Colorado; 8.9 percent in New Mexico; and 13.3 percent in Texas.
By increasing infrastructure spending now, the report adds, states will be acting in an environment of decreased debt loads, while also taking advantage of interest payments on debts that are at a historic low.
Some five months after it won the approval of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, a wind farm near the village of Corona is taking the next step towards development.
Members of the Lincoln County Commission have voted in favor of issuing up to $1.4 billion in industrial revenue bonds to build what could ultimately be a 1,000-megawatt facility that will go up in several phases.
The project, which has been in the talking stage for several years, would be built on some 125,000 acres, and is being developed by the San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group.
That company, which according to its latest financial statement saw revenues of more than $483 million during the final quarter of 2018, purchased the project from Mesa Canyons Wind LLC last year.
As proposed, in return for the issuance of the industrial revenue bonds, Lincoln County may possess a lease-hold interest in both the land and equipment needed for the project.
Pattern would also make payments on the county bonds, with roughly two-thirds of that money going to Lincoln County and the remaining third shared by the Corona Public Schools District and the Carrizozo Municipal Schools district.
County officials still need to finalize the industrial revenue bonds documents in preparation for a final commission vote on the project later this spring.
By Garry Boulard
A unique project that could see the construction of a New Mexico State University campus in central Mexico has won the approval of the New Mexico State Legislature.
For nearly two years now, NMSU officials have been talking about the possibility of establishing a new campus in San Luis Potosi, a city of around 825,000 people that is just over 900 miles to the south of the Las Cruces-based school.
The idea behind the project is to allow Mexican students to enroll in a U.S. studies program. But the campus would also house international studies courses as well.
As planned, the project will be a joint venture between NMSU and the commercial real estate agency El Groupo Promotor, which has offices in Mexico City.
As outlined in an agreement signed last year by members of NMSU’s Board of Regents, the school would take on no costs associated with the physical construction of the new campus. But it would pay for such things as conducting feasibility studies regarding the project, and developing programs on the new campus.
Although no exact construction schedule for the new campus has yet been announced, it was earlier reported that a 2,500-acre site for the project has been identified.
By Garry Boulard
New federal legislation designed to more thoroughly document the building of state infrastructure projects has been introduced in Congress.
What is being called the Preserving America’s Infrastructure Dollars Act would in particular focus on projects that have received in excess of $30 million from Washington.
The measure, as introduced by Minnesota Representative Pete Stauber, would require that any state receiving more than that amount must conduct what is called a Life Cycle Cost Analysis.
That analysis, said Stauber in a statement, would help to save taxpayers and various state departments of transportation, “valuable infrastructure dollars.”
“It is the duty of the federal government to serve as responsible stewards of taxpayer money,” Stauber continued in his statement, adding that he is currently encouraging his fellow House members to “support this straightforward, commonsense legislation.”
Adoption of the Life Cycle Cost Analysis would mean that state officials would be tasked with measuring not only the cost of constructing and maintaining any given piece of infrastructure, but also forecasting future maintenance and reconstruction costs.
Stauber’s legislation is currently under review in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
By Garry Boulard
In a move to begin new barrier work along the U.S./Mexico border, the Army Corps of Engineers is slated to receive $1 billion in funding.
That money is coming from the Department of Defense in response to an earlier request from the Department of Homeland Security to “build 57 miles of 18 foot-high pedestrian fencing.”
The funding will also go for both constructing and improving existing roads at the border, as well as “installing lighting within the Yuma and El Paso sectors of the border,” said Patrick Shanahan, the Acting Secretary of Defense, in a statement.
All of the work, Shanahan continued, will be done “in support of the February 15 national emergency declaration on the southern border of the United States.”
That national emergency declaration was issued by President Trump who declared “the current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.”
In so doing, the President said he would push for transferring Department of the Treasure drug forfeiture funds, as well as the Defense Department’s counter-narcotics activities funds, among other sources, in order to pay for new border construction.
The $1 billion funds transfer has been challenged in Congress, and is expected to ultimately end up in court.
Defense Department officials had earlier indicated that moving the money from their counter-narcotics activities efforts, which allows for the construction of a certain amount of lighting and fencing, would not need Congressional approval.
The Department of Defense also thought it could transfer over $3.6 billion from unobligated military construction funds for border construction work.
In making that move, the Defense Department also announced that it would be either delaying or canceling outright funding for new ground transport equipment at the Fort Huachuca army base in Cochise County, Arizona; an information systems facility at the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico; and defense access roads at Fort Bliss in metro El Paso, among other projects.
By Garry Boulard
The Navajo Nation is receiving crucial federal funding for the planning of a major new hospital and the construction of three outpatient facilities.
Some $2 million in funding has been secured for the planning of a new Gallup Indian Medical Center.
The current four-story facility, located at 516 E. Nizhoni Boulevard, was built in the early 1960s and, according to officials, is outdated.
A new hospital is expected to cost $550 million to build, and could go up on land near the city’s Miyamura High School some two miles to the northeast of the current hospital.
The new outpatient facilities will go up inside the Pueblo Pintado in western New Mexico; with a second one planned for northern Arizona’s Bodaway-Gap.
The third outpatient project is also slated for the northern end of the state, in Dilkon.
The money, which will pay for both the design and construction of the facilities, has been included as part of a $218 million Congressional appropriation for fiscal year 2019 designed to foster Native American healthcare initiatives.
The Pueblo Pintado project is getting just over $87 million in funding; while the Bodaway-Gap facility will receive $28 million in support.
The third project, the new Dilkon, Arizona outpatient facility, is slated for around $59 million.
The Navajo Area Indian Health Service provides health care support to more than 244,000 members of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
Members of Congress, during the current session, have also been pushing efforts that would give to Native American tribes more incentives to contract for their healthcare needs with private institutions.
By Garry Boulard
The most recent gauge of construction industry conditions and attitudes compiled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates a marginal downward trend.
According to the group’s Commercial Construction Index, which is released every four months, three levels of business industry confidence have shown declines during the first weeks of 2019.
Those levels are current project backlogs, new business confidence, and anticipated revenue.
Done in conjunction with the Chicago-based USG Corporation, the Commercial Construction Index nevertheless revealed an overall score of 72 in terms of business confidence, down 75 in the fall of 2018.
The authors of the report, Thomas Donahue, chief executive officer of the Chamber, and Jennifer Scanlon, USG’s chief executive officer, said in a preface to the document that it was “hard to pin down exactly what’s driving this slight downward trend.”
But they speculate that the numbers could be impacted by the early-year government shutdown, the increased cost of materials, as well as the effects of an always-cyclical industry.
Donahue and Scanlon, however, add that “even though this quarter’s numbers show the market may be moderating, historical standards tell us demand is healthy, and contractors remain upbeat.”
The survey also showed that responding contractors are expecting to spend less in the coming months on tools and equipment than they did during this same time period one year ago.
Then, 57 percent of respondents said they anticipated increased tool and equipment spending. In the latest survey, that number dropped to 47 percent.
The decline in new tool and equipment purchases, concludes the report, is a sign that “contractors are growing more cautious.”
By Garry Boulard
A new and imaginative infill development project is set to launch on the increasingly growing northeast side of El Paso.
The El Paso-based Carefree Homes, one of the largest home builders in the city, has announced plans to add onto its existing Hidden Village project, encompassing nearly 120 acres for new development.
Carefree Homes acquired those acres from the City of El Paso’s Public Service Board, which oversees the utility El Paso Water. The $7 million sale must still be approved by the El Paso City Council.
The land in question is made up of one 73-acre parcel and another 43-acre parcel.
As planned, the Hidden Village extension should see the construction of up to five hundred homes, with a total build-out schedule of anywhere from four to seven years.
The current Hidden Village site, off of Ameen Drive, is already seeing construction with a planned total build-out goal of 136 homes.
Those one and two-story luxury homes vary in size from 1,600 square feet to more than 2,800 square feet.
Analysts say Northeast El Paso’s population booms, going from less than 50,000 people in the 1970s to nearly twice that today, is largely due to the growth of nearby Fort Bliss U.S. Army base.
By Garry Boulard
More than 15,000 new curb ramps are planned for construction in Colorado Springs in the next decade or so as the result of a lawsuit charging the city with disability negligence.
That suit was filed in the U.S. District Court’s Tenth Circuit by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, which has offices in Denver.
The suit specifically said that the City of Colorado Springs was in violation of federal law requiring that all public streets, sidewalks, and curbs be disability compliant.
In response to an earlier lawsuit making essentially the same charges, Colorado Springs officials last year launched a series of public meetings in the hope of soliciting input on how to best meet accessibility standards.
At the same time, the Colorado Springs City Council approved appropriating some $300,000 to hire staffers specifically charged with documenting which public buildings, streets, sidewalks and curbs in the city are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It is thought that it will cost Colorado Springs well in excess of $10 million to address all of its disability infrastructure needs. Funding sources as of yet have not been completely identified.
According to a report published by the Colorado Springs Gazette there are around 24,000 people in the city, our of a total population of 465,000, whose disabilities require them to use walkers, wheel chairs, and other mobility devices.
By Garry Boulard
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