Building on the rise

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Brookings sees great year for building permits

BROOKINGS – Construction wasn’t stopped by COVID-19 and Brookings saw one of its best years, according to Jared Thomas, chief building official for the city.

“We have 715 building permits total, which is probably our highest year,” Thomas said. “Obviously, our permits went up this year, but our valuation also went up a little bit, so I would say we’re very steady.”

The building services administrator is happy with the numbers he’s seen.

“When I look at this summary that we have from ’61 (to the present), there’s been some high years in there and there’s been some low years,” Thomas said, adding that 2020 aligns well with where he expects the city to be. 

Various things influenced the final numbers, he said. There was COVID-19, of course, which prompted some folks to tackle home improvement projects, but the county jail expansion also figured into it.

Overall numbers

Brookings’ overall valuation was up about $2 million, from $48.8 million in 2019 to $50.9 million in 2020, Thomas pointed out. 

In the Brookings Permit Summary, those 715 permits for 2020 are broken down. The total valuation for 2020 construction is $50,856,336; $19,913,560 went on the residential side of the ledger and $30,942,776 on the non-residential side. 

For 2020 residential, there were 77 single-family permits; one townhome with three units; three duplexes with six units; and one apartment building with eight units for a total of 94 units. Permits for additions totaled 89, remodels were 77, mobile homes were seven, accessory structures were 52, and maintenance (siding, window, roof) were 261. Driveway permits tallied 51, and demolition was seven. There were no voided permits.

On the commercial side, there were 18 permits for new construction, six for additions, 41 for remodels, and five for public.

In 2019, there were 560 permits. The total valuation was $48,806,173, with $22,144,845 for residential and $26,661,327 for non-residential. 

For 2019 residential, there were 72 single-family permits; one townhome with four units; three duplexes with six units; and one apartment building with 72 units. Permits for additions totaled 54, remodels were 72, foundation work only saw a total of 15, mobile homes had 15 permits, accessory structures came to 38, and maintenance (siding, window, roof) were 196. Driveway permits totaled 40, no demolition permits, and there was one voided permit.

For 2019 commercial, there were 10 permits for new construction, 10 for additions, with a total of 19 units – added with the numbers from the residential side, there were a total of 173 units. There were 37 permits for remodels, two permits for foundation work, and seven for public. 

To compare, Brookings’ highest valuation year was 2006 with $59,052,994. Other years with valuations over $50 million were 2008 with $55 million, 2012 with $54 million, 2013 with $58 million, 2015 with $58 million and 2016 with $52 million. The lowest valuation year since 2006 was 2010 with $27,032,495.


Some numbers went up, others down from the previous year. 

“Residential valuations were down, actually, a little bit, but our commercial permits were up,” Thomas said, adding residential went from $22 million to $19 million, and commercial jumped about $4 million, from $26 million to $30 million.

There were a few adjustments made in 2020.

“In 2020, we got a new building permitting software, so we’re tracking some of our permits a little bit differently than we had in the past for reporting purposes,” Thomas said.

“Having this new permitting software has really helped us to be able to help customers (online),” Thomas said. “They can submit permit applications via email and we can push everything in, so we’ve tried to make some of those improvements. There’s a little bit of a learning curve for us on some of that, but I think we’ve kind of got a pretty good handle on it now.”

The new technology has given them an edge in tracking trends.

“So this one would include driveway permits and other permits that we wouldn’t have included in our previous reports,” he added.

There were substantial increases in permits for accessory structures and maintenance, such as siding, windows and roofs, Thomas said.

“I think, with the pandemic, people had time at home, and they had time to re-invest in some of their property and do some of those projects that maybe they’d always wanted to do,” Thomas said.

“The other reason could be interest rates were really favorable in 2020,” Thomas said.

People are fixing up what they have, instead of building new.

“I would say we saw a definite increase in renovations this year,” Thomas said, in both residential and commercial. “On the commercial side, we saw a slight increase in remodels.”

On the commercial side, one thing stands out.

“A big thing in (the numbers) is the jail expansion – that would have been under that commercial permitting,” Thomas said, adding the jail expansion was “a good chunk” of the $17 million total for public construction. 

COVID didn’t seem to slow construction, Thomas said. It was more about “the mask mandates and trying to make sure that we’re being safe while doing our inspections and stuff like that.”

There were no mixed-use projects last year – those that combine residential and commercial, usually retail stores on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors. Thomas said those types of projects ebb and flow from year to year. He thinks they might become more prevalent due to the fact the city is running out of available land and is looking at ways to make better use of the land that is available.

“We sure like to see those commercial-mixed projects,” Thomas said.

One thing that gets the public’s attention is single-family homes.

“Everyone always likes to look at new single-family (houses). Seems like that’s kind of the driving number,” Thomas said.

Single-family permits went up by five units, he pointed out.

“We had 72 in 2019 and 77 in 2020. Twin homes were pretty much the same. Row house-style was very similar (to the previous year),” Thomas said.

“So I think the numbers were all very steady; we just didn’t have the big apartment project this year like we’ve had in years past,” Thomas said.

Growing south

Brookings continues to grow to the south, residential-wise, Thomas said, listing Timberline, Fox Run, Prairie Hills and Arbor Hills.

“I think that for the most part, everything seems to be south of 20th Street South,” Thomas said.

Commercial is a different story.

“The commercial side, there’s not really a specific place,” Thomas said. “We see commercial just kind of everywhere, whether it’s re-development or if it’s new development.”

Holding steady

Overall, considering what a crazy year 2020 was, Brookings did well.

“I feel like we have steady growth, and so steady growth is a good indicator that we have a steady economy,” Thomas said.

No one has a crystal ball to see the future, but all indications are good that Brookings will continue to do well with building permits.

“We’ve issued several permits so far, and they’re kind of across the board. We’re seeing residential and commercial permits,” Thomas said. “It’s pretty close to a 50/50 break.”

“We don’t have any projects that we can talk about yet, but … we’ve had some talks about some other exciting projects that are coming up, potentially this spring and summer,” Thomas said.

“The way that it looks like now, it’s shaping up to be another busy year,” he said.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]



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