Dubuque sees jump in number of building projects, construction value

Both the total construction value for building permits and number of projects recorded jumped in Dubuque in the first six months of this year.

City of Dubuque records show that the city issued permits for projects totaling $68.4 million through June 30. This is up 12.2% from the same six-month stretch in 2022, in which $60.9 million was totaled in issued permits.

In addition, the total number of city permits issued increased 12.5% from 752 permits in the first six months of 2022 to 846 permits in the same time period this year.

“We know that there is a need for housing,” said Michael Belmont, City of Dubuque assistant housing director and code official. “Contractors and developers have heard that and are putting together projects for housing. Some of those are not in the permit stage yet, but they are in development. Construction is strong and continues to remain strong. … We don’t see any reason for a slowdown.”

Belmont also noted that the construction value total from the building permits only represents the value of the work requiring such permits, with totals for overall projects at an even higher figure.

“I believe we’re actually higher than pre-pandemic levels (for construction),” he added. “We did see a spike … during the pandemic, when people may have been doing projects that had been put off for a while. We’ve come back a little bit from that, and we have leveled off at a higher level than before the pandemic.”

The permit with the highest value filed in the first six months of the year was a $19.9 million permit for the 255,000-square-foot warehouse on Seippel Road. The $24.5 million project by Seippel Warehouse LLC, an entity made up of local developer Gronen and other companies, eventually will be leased to Simmons Pet Food. Simmons plans to add 10 new jobs once the facility is complete.

Crews broke ground on the project in the first week of April, with a groundbreaking ceremony held at the end of May.

“It’s just remarkable the progress that’s going on out there,” said John Gronen, president of Gronen.

Shawn Hilborn and Matt Anderson — both managers of the project and Gronen’s chief operating officer and construction manager, respectively — said the project is scheduled to be complete by Dec. 1, but work is currently a bit ahead of schedule thanks to the dry weather. The walls and roof of the warehouse should be complete by early September.

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said the warehouse project will expand Simmons’ already-large footprint in the area. The manufacturer began operations in Dubuque two years ago in a 275,000-square-foot facility and started a second pet food line the following year.

“It’s a sign Simmons is doing very well,” Dickinson said. “Once again, Simmons is stepping up and exceeding expectations.”

Other large permits filed with the city so far this year include a $3.2 million permit for a 13,816-square-foot office building for Mediacom at 2845 Plaza Way, near Sam’s Club. Belmont said the building also will offer some storage space for equipment.

Two projects involving Aldi had permits filed this year: a $1.3 million permit for a 2,567-square-foot addition and remodel at the store at 2160 Holliday Drive and a $1.7 million permit for a new store in Plaza 20.

Dickinson said GDDC tracks construction investment in the greater Dubuque region by fiscal year, from July 1 to June 30. One of the goals of GDDC’s 2027 capital campaign is to see $1 billion in construction investment in the region by 2027.

Dickinson said the goal for the most recent fiscal year was having $200 million in construction investment, but the number was in excess of $250 million.

“It’s broadly based on a combination of things: commercial (construction) in particular, some office space, but also the growing amount of residential (construction)” Dickinson said of the numbers. “Really, what we’re shooting for is to have that annual number be 50% residential development because we’re in such need of that product.”

He said GDDC hopes for an even better year this fiscal year, especially with new incentives established by the City of Dubuque meant to foster more collaboration with local developers for new construction.

Dickinson said the availability of contractors and workforce issues persist when it comes to getting new projects moving, but inflationary pressures generally have eased.

“We’ve had labor shortages, materials shortage, an increase in interest rates,” he said. “Despite all of that, in the community from July 1 to June 30 of 2023, we saw a quarter of a million dollars in new growth, and we anticipate a strong year going forward.”