Athens appears to be waking from the long winter’s nap of recession.
Pent up demand, the availability of loans, low interest rates and retail sales seems to have nudged the city from sleep.
Building Inspector Bert Bradford says the city has already issued 23 commercial building permits for $13.1 million in new commercial projects, and there are still six months remaining in the fiscal year. Bradford shared the good news with City Council members during a premeeting work session Monday.
The number of commercial permits this year is already leaps and bounds ahead of permits issued in previous fiscal years, which run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Here are the numbers from the previous four years:
• 2009-10 — 8 permits for $2.5 million in new commercial property;
• 2010-11 — 13 permits for $4.8 million in new commercial property;
• 2011-12 — 17 permits for $8.8 million in new commercial property;
• 2012-13 — 5 permits for $7.2 million in new commercial property.
Why the boom?
Athens developer Bill Ming attributes the increase in commercial building permits to several factors.
“For the last three years, we’ve been experiencing a national economic downturn, but last year we’ve been kind of coming out of that,” Ming said. “It’s like having a favorite fishing hole that you haven’t harvested fish from for three years, and you go back and they are biting like crazy.”
Ming said there are probably a lot of drawing board projects now being built that were put off due to the economic downturn.
“If you look at Athens, Decatur, Madison and Huntsville, you will see the same trend,” he said. “Banks started lending money and interest rates are still low, so people are building.”
The city has two major projects well underway — the new city hall at 200 W. Hobbs St., which should be completed in spring 2015, and the Athens-Limestone Public Library at 603 S. Jefferson St., which should be completed in September. Limestone County, meanwhile, is renovating its temporary courthouse at 503 S. Jefferson St.