Joplin issuing record number of rebuilding permits

Monday, November 21, 2011 | 3:22 p.m. CST

JOPLIN — Joplin is rebuilding at a record pace after the town was devastated by a tornado in May. City officials said they expect the activity to continue into next year.

The city has issued an average of $35.4 million in building permits per month since the tornado, compared with an average of $2.1 million a month before the May 22 tornado.

Prior to the storm, which killed 161 people, the city was on track to have one of the worst years for construction in decades, The Joplin Globe reported.

For the fiscal year ending Oct. 31, Joplin issued $192,450,711 in permits, breaking the previous record of $128,114,820 set in 2007.

"We expect things to continue at that pace for a few more months before things start to level off," said Steve Cope, city supervisor for building codes and inspections. "We could easily have another $200 million year next year."

The permits were for everything from demolition projects to single-family dwellings to multimillion-dollar commercial buildings inside the Joplin city limits.

Among the big projects were a Walmart Supercenter, $15 million; Academy Sports, $8 million; Hilton Homewood Suites, $6.58 million; Home Depot, $5 million; and a temporary middle school conversion project at $4.8 million.

St. John's Regional Medical Center, which is building a new hospital complex to replace the medical campus that was destroyed, hasn't sought any permits yet. Work is scheduled to start early next year on the project, which could reach $1 billion.

Since the tornado, 441 homes have been constructed, 316 of those in or near the damage zone, Cope said. About 125 homes were built outside of the damage zone, but within the city limits. The city lost more than 7,000 housing units in the tornado.

In the first months since the tornado most of the construction work focused on repairing homes that were not destroyed, said Crystal Harrington, director of the Homebuilders Association of Southwest Missouri.

"That was a huge drag early on at getting started," she said. "You had to get people back to where they were before you could start new. Now, they are starting the new builds."

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