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Construction workers for a McIlvain Construction subcontractor help finish the metal framing of the Argyros Performing Arts Center in downtown Ketchum on Wednesday afternoon. The theater is expected to open in November.

Looking across Ketchum, the story of new commercial property development is no longer solely focused on new hotels.

The construction of the Limelight Hotel on Main Street and the anticipated construction of the Auberge Resort Sun Valley hotel were the major new commercial development projects in Ketchum in 2015 and 2016, according to building activity reports maintained by the city government.

The city recorded those projects when their developers paid their building-permit fees; the Limelight wrapped up construction in 2017 and the Auberge will have until 2021 to complete construction.

But, new commercial development in Ketchum was scant aside from the hotels. In 2016, only one other new commercial project was built. In 2015, no other new commercial projects were built.

That’s changed in 2017 and in the first five months of 2018. A new theater—the Argyros Performing Arts Center—is under construction on Main Street, which will be operated as a nonprofit organization once it’s complete. Construction is on schedule and the theater is expected to open in November.

This year, two new commercial buildings are going to be built on Northwood Way in the city’s light-industrial area. One will feature office space and the other will be mixed-use.

Warfield Brewery & Distillery is planning a major expansion on Main Street to increase its production of beer and whiskey, although that project hasn’t yet been recorded in the construction activity reports.

A new mixed-use building is being constructed on Sun Valley Road, near Washington Avenue, and the Ketchum Sun Valley Volunteer Association is building a firefighter-training facility on Lewis Street.


A brisk start

Overall, construction activity in the first five months of 2018 have outpaced the same time periods in prior years, discounting the Limelight and Auberge projects.

From January through May, the city government has tallied 46 total residential and commercial construction projects worth $20,949,606 in value.

The valuation figures come with a caveat: The city undervalues the projects for the purposes of its building-permit activity reports.

For the first five months of 2017, the reports tallied 51 projects worth $11,542,029. In the same time period in 2016, the reports tallied 55 projects worth $49,028,169—but that includes the Auberge’s $30 million valuation.

From January to May of 2015, the reports counted 27 projects worth $37,933,746, but that includes the Limelight’s $31.75 million valuation.

Ketchum has seen two major new residential projects so far in 2018—the Onyx and Leadville condominium project, which is valued at $9 million, and the final phase of the Thunder Spring condominium project on Saddle Road, which was valued at $3.5 million in the construction activity report.

A look back

Residential home building and remodeling—particularly high-priced, luxury projects—has been a staple of Ketchum’s economy for decades.

That fact is reflected in the building activity reports. Of the 44 total projects in 2018, 28 have been residential worth $17,680,441.

Last year, the city reported 129 total projects that included 95 residential projects worth $22,285,582. Broken down further, that tally included eight new residential projects worth $8,993,690.

In 2016, the city reported 110 projects total worth $62,250,719, including the Auberge. Seventy-nine of those projects were residential, worth $25,599,873. That included 11 new residential projects worth $20,823,852.

In 2015, 102 projects were recorded and valued at $51,962,408, which included the Limelight. Of those, 71 were residential projects worth $17,946,330. That included 13 new residential projects worth $12,422,266.

In 2014, the city reported 92 projects total worth $34,404,945, including 72 residential projects worth $30,769,757. Twenty of those were new homes and valued at $23,394,295.

Construction jobs in Blaine County have been increasing since the economic recession in 2009-2010, but aren’t near their pre-recession high.

In 2006, Ketchum’s residential and commercial construction projects were valued at $72 million, according to statistics from Sun Valley Economic Development. The Idaho Department of Labor reported that 2,493 people were employed in the construction industry in Blaine County in 2007.

By 2016, 1,501 people were employed in construction jobs countywide. That figure grew to 1,684 in 2017, according to the Department of Labor.

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