Construction back on upswing

Alvie Baca, with Armijo Bricklayers in Portales, mixes mortar for a house on Hammond Drive in Clovis. Baca and fellow workers have been working on the house since Feb. 6. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Construction around Clovis is on the rise.

Or, construction around Clovis is declining.

It all depends on your reference point.

The city of Clovis issued 27 permits for new housing construction in January 2005. This January, it issued only 16.

But 16 is substantial compared to the second half of 2005, when Clovis averaged fewer than five new permits per month between August and December.

Federal officials’ plans to close Cannon Air Force Base, which were announced in May, marked the beginning of the housing slump.

Some have speculated recent reports that the military is considering a new mission for Cannon is fueling new hope for the housing market.

“It’s starting to pick up, but it’s still not what it was before the (Base Realignment and Closure) announcement. It’s not up a great deal (over the past few months), but it is up some,” said Rick Andes, president of the Home Builders Association of Eastern New Mexico.

“We’re not near as far behind as we were,” Andes said.

Pete Wilt, director of Clovis’ department of building safety, sees optimism in the air.

“I really do. Last September, we (issued permits for) four houses. August, we did three (permits),” Wilt said. “We had 20 in July. When the BRAC came out it went from 20 to 3.”

Wilt said more permits are usually issued in the summer months when it’s more conducive to working outside.

Of the 16 permits for new residences processed last month, 12 were issued to one company — Palma Homes, based in Tulare, Calif. — for a subdivision on the east edge of Clovis.
That brings pause for some local builders.

“I know there were 16 permits issued, but 12 were to a company out of California,” said Randy Crowder, a Clovis city commissioner who is also a member of the Home Builders Association. “It’s not local money and that’s the part that troubles me. They’ve come in here, bought some land, put in streets and done a subdivision.

“They have a substantial investment in the community, but I’m not sure why they’re jumping out right now and doing it”
Palma Homes officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mild weather has enabled all local builders to move at an unaccustomed, quicker pace over the winter.

As well as residences currently being constructed, work continues on a Marriott Inn on North Prince Street and a new Pizza Hut, near the intersection of Prince and Llano Estacado. Also, the former location of Villa Del Sol, a mobile home park on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, is being retooled for new residences.

“They’re going to put out a few trailer houses out there and see how it goes over. They’re just cleaning it up,” Wilt said of the Villa Del Sol site. “It’s basically a retired couple running it. They had a trailer park for over 20 years (and) made good money on it. Now they want to try it again.”