Dubuque sees increase in number of building projects, decrease in value

The total construction value for building permits issued in Dubuque dropped significantly in the first six months of the year, but the number of projects also jumped up.

City of Dubuque records show that the city issued permits for projects totaling $60.9 million through June 30. This is down 50% from the same six-month stretch in 2021, in which $122.2 million in projects were issued permits.

However, the total number of city permits issued increased 14.8%, from 655 permits in the first six months of 2021 to 752 permits so far this year.

Dubuque officials said large projects drove up the overall value of permitted projects in the first half of 2021. Those include a $35.3 million permit filed for a project to build an apartment complex at the Mount Carmel campus for older adults, including the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a $27.5 million permit for renovations at Dubuque Senior High School.

“That drives the value up from last year from what’s typical,” said Michael Belmont, City of Dubuque assistant housing director and code official. “We don’t get those every year. There’s a lot of smaller projects, home remodel projects that are getting done.”

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said GDDC traced $99.5 million in construction projects throughout Dubuque County in the first six months of this year, compared to $142 million during the same timespan last year.

He also noted the Mount Carmel campus project drove up 2021’s numbers.

“Every once in a while, we get an outlier like that,” he said. “… When we look at the data, going from January to July, it’s usually the weakest two quarters of the year because of winter. We have a larger construction period later on in the calendar year.”

One of the highest-valued projects for which a permit was issued so far this year in Dubuque was a $9.4 million, 67,197-square-foot addition to Klauer Manufacturing Co. Another permit outlined $8 million worth of work on the imaging services unit at MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center.

Looking ahead, both Belmont and Dickinson noted the need for more residential construction in the area.

“Workforce housing has been identified as a very strong need for Dubuque,” Belmont said. “We’re very short on workforce housing. I know the City Council has been discussing that, and I think it’s a good thing, and I think it’s going to generate some projects.”

Dickinson said he also hoped residential projects would be a major component of local construction going forward.

He noted that inflation, increased interest rates and a potential economic downturn are concerns affecting projects going forward. However, the construction forecast looks positive, he said.

“We anticipate a robust construction year in 2022 and going forward,” Dickinson said. “…We have enough in the books to know 2022 looks good. We have people pushing to increase residential, single-family development.”